METZ, France -- The French owner of a luxury car business -- accused of masterminding a $50 million million diamond theft at Brussels Airport -- temporarily fended off extradition to Belgium on Thursday, arguing that the authorities there had not spelled out his precise role.
In an hourlong court hearing in the north of France, a panel of three judges delayed a decision on Belgium's extradition demand for Marc Bertoldi, 43, until May 30. He was arrested in the region on May 7 after he left his mother's house and headed for a train station in a Porsche, which was confiscated by the police along with €60,000, or $77,000, in cash.
His arrest set off a series of police raids the following day in Belgium and Switzerland. More than 30 people were arrested in Geneva and Brussels for their suspected roles, from fencing stolen diamonds to taking part in the armed robbery in February of an evening passenger flight bound for Geneva with a cargo of 120 packets of rough and polished stones from Antwerp, an international hub for the diamond industry.
On Thursday, Mr. Bertoldi, was rushed into the courtroom in blue jeans and handcuffs, towering over his five prison guards. During his appearance, he complained about the "enormous" glare of publicity surrounding his case.
"I'm considered almost guilty although I have denied all involvement in this affair," he said. "I want to present myself to Belgian authorities as I have said at the beginning. But I don't want to do it under this media pressure."
Mr. Bertoldi's lawyers, the father-and-son team of Dominique and Olivier Rondu, took a tactical approach in his defense. They criticized the Belgian authorities on procedural grounds, such as failing to identify Mr. Bertoldi's French nationality in the extradition demand and crediting him with roles as a robber and a fence without fully explaining why.
"We have won a demi-victory today," said Dominque Rondu, after the hearing, noting that the judicial panel demanded more information to justify Belgian claims against his client, who remains imprisoned until the next hearing. "Is Mr. Bertoldi accused of being present on the tarmac on the day of the robbery? Is he accused of being the brain of the operation? Is it just fencing? Till this day we have nothing on the subject from Belgian authorities."
The defense approach marked a change in tactics because Olivier Rondu had previously said that his client was willing to go to Belgium to offer his defense. On Friday, eight people accused of robbery in the theft will face a procedural court hearing on the charges in Belgium. Most of them are of Moroccan origin, according to investigators.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.