Greed is an intrinsic part of the human survival instinct. But we all are taught since our tender age to control it. Below are a few men who might have missed their “greed-control”class. The criteria to be mentioned on this Forbes like list is that robbers must have gotten away with it, at least temporarily. The robberies are all cash, jewels, art or anything else worth big bucks. Corporate thieves (the real pros) are not part of this list. THey are too good to be caught anyway. All values are in US$, roughly adjusted for inflation.
10| Antwerp Diamond Center, 16/02/03 | Antwerp, Belgium | $100+ million
80% of the world’s uncut diamonds go through Antwerp, and don’t thieves know it! This haul was so large that the thieves literally couldn’t carry all their booty out of the vault, but still managed to empty an impressive 123 of 189 deposit boxes. Leonardo Notarbartolo, a 30 year career thief, was the leader of this stylish gang. The robbery was years in the making, with at least 4 people involved. They had rented office space in the building 3 years earlier, where Leonardo posed as an Italian diamond merchant to gain trust and credibility. He set up meetings and did small deals, no one ever suspecting a thing. The vault was protected by 10 layers of security, including infrared heat detectors, Doppler radar, a magnetic field, a seismic sensor, and a lock with 100 million possible combinations. The robbery was called the heist of the century, and even now the police can’t explain exactly how it was done. Notarbartolo was caught after one of his accomplices failed to burn a garbage bag of evidence. The $100 million worth of gems has never been found and Notarbartolo is currently serving a 10 year sentence. Interestingly, Notarbartolo has claimed that a Jewish diamond merchant hired them for the heist and that they actually only stole roughly $20 million worth, with many of the deposit boxes already lying empty. He believes that he and his gang were used as part of a huge insurance fraud.
9| United California Bank, 24/03/72 | California, USA | $100+ million
Back in 1972 the robbers landed $30 million which adjusted to the present day inflation, it would be worth more than $100 million. At the time, it was a world record amount. A group of 7 men from Ohio, led by Amil Dinsio, broke into a branch of the United California Bank in Laguna Niguel, California, and looted the safe deposit vault. Due to the nature of safe deposit boxes and their undeclared contents, only an estimate is possible. They were eventually apprehended by the FBI. One of the men involved, Phil Christopher, has written an account of the robbery in the book Superthief.
8| Harry Winston, 5/12/08 | Paris, France | $108 million
Four armed men entered the upmarket jewelry store (“Jeweler to the Stars”) shortly before closing time, 3 of whom were dressed in wigs and women’s clothing. After cleaning out the display cases, they forced staff to loot the storage area, as the millions worth of jewels in the display cases just wasn’t enough for these guys. They cleaned the place out, without firing a shot. 25 people have since been arrested for the crime, aged 22 to 67.
7| British Bank Of The Middle East, 20/01/76 | Beirut, Lebanon | $110+ million
The 1970s saw the rise of the PLO, a Palestinian resistance group led by Yasser Arafat. They were at war. And wars cost money. Lots of it. Lebanon was in the midst of a civil war, and amid the chaos, a group associated with the PLO broke into a dozen banks, the largest of which was the British Bank of the Middle East. The group made off with a staggering $110+ million worth of gold, jewels, stocks and currency in today’s value. The group blasted the wall of the bank that was shared with the Catholic Church next door. With the assistance of Corsican locksmiths, they opened the vault and plundered the contents over the course of 2 days. Some of the stocks were later sold back to their owners.
6| Schiphol Airport, 25/02/05 | Amsterdam, Belgium | $118 million
This haul is the largest diamond heist in history. $118 million is the estimate, as many of the stones were uncut, which make them much harder to value (and trace.) 2 weeks prior to the robbery, 4 men stole a KLM cargo truck (KLM is a major Dutch airline.) and KLM uniforms to divert suspicion until the last moment, so that they could move around the secure areas of the airport unhindered. On February 25th, the thieves drove right up to a KLM truck that was carrying a large haul of uncut diamonds intended for delivery to Antwerp. In full view of many witnesses, they ordered the drivers out at gun-point and simply got in the truck and drove it away.
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