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Companies with Bermuda ties face claims in $50 million diamond heist

Lloyd’s of London insurers including American International Group Inc.’s Ascot Underwriting are facing claims on the theft of $50 million in diamonds from a Brussels airport, Bloomberg News reported yesterday, citing people with knowledge of the policies.

“Ascot was the lead insurer on the policy bought by Brink’s Co., which was robbed on February 18, said the people, who declined to be named because policy details are confidential,” Bloomberg said.

“Ascot and Willis Group Holdings Plc, which was the broker to Brink’s, have sent loss adjusters to Belgium to probe the heist.”

Ed Cunningham, a Brink’s spokesman who declined to identify the companies providing coverage or the size of the loss, told Bloomberg: “We self-insure up to an amount we deem appropriate, and then we use third-party insurers.

The entire incident is under investigation.”

Brink’s has repaid all of its customers for their losses, according to Cunningham, who said the company has coverage via the Lloyd’s of London market.

AIG, the insurer that repaid a US bailout last year, said in a 2008 statement that it took full ownership of Ascot Underwriting Holdings Ltd. to expand in London. Matt Gallagher, an AIG spokesman, declined to comment.

The robbers broke through a fence and flashed guns at the pilots of a Swiss International Air Lines Ltd. plane and took packets of gems, including rough and unpolished stones. Nobody was injured.

The robbery will have a “significant impact” on first- quarter earnings, Richmond, Virginia-based Brink’s said in February 20 statement, without providing a specific figure. The company said it was shipping a “portion” of the diamonds.

Bloomberg said Ascot was joined by other London insurers in underwriting the Brink’s policy, the people said. The wire said Lloyd’s of London declined to comment and Ascot spokeswoman Jenny Love declined to comment as did Nathan Hambrook-Skinner of Willis.

“It’s a significant claim especially coming so soon after the unprecedented specie losses from superstorm Sandy,” Mike Burle an underwriter of terrorism, fine arts and specie, which refers to valuable property, risks at Liberty Syndicates in London, told Bloomberg. “Increased rates and thus premiums will be seen in many if not all sectors of the specie market.”

The owners of some of the diamonds on the flight may have had separate policies, Burle said.

“Either way, the majority of the losses are likely to fall in London,” he said.

Claiming compensation may not be straightforward because questions could be raised about the airport’s security and the valuation of the diamonds, the people said. Rough diamonds are typically more difficult to value than polished stones.

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Published February 22, 2013 at 8:00 am (Updated February 21, 2013 at 7:08 pm)

Companies with Bermuda ties face claims in $50 million diamond heist

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