March 23, 2012

Top 10 Largest Robberies in History

Robberies happen everyday these days because of low economy and poverty but there are masterminds who do robberies quite amazingly and with a proper plan. But the robberies that you’re going to read about right now are not some everyday robberies, they are Huge. Here is a list of 10 biggest robberies in history.

1) Central Bank of Iraq
18th March 2003- Baghdad, Iraq: $1 billion
Some robberies require careful planning. Others use brute force. But the largest in history was as simple was it was effective. Saddam Hussein treated Iraq as his own personal fiefdom, so it’s no surprise that he would feel that the Central Bank of Iraq was his personal bank account. The day before Coalition forces began bombing Iraq, he sent his son Qusay to make a withdrawal on his behalf with a handwritten note. Qusay oversaw the withdrawal of boxes stuffed with $100 bills in a five-hour operation which netted the dictator about $1 billion in US dollars. It didn’t get him very far, as he was caught sometime later hiding in a hole in the ground whilst his son was killed by US forces. Approximately $650 million was later found by US troops hidden in the walls of one of his palace’s, though the remaining $350 million has never been recovered and is considered lost.

2) City Bonds Robbery
2nd May 1990- London, UK: £292 million
John Goddard was a 58 year old messenger working for broker Sheppards, who was mugged whilst carrying a briefcase on a quiet London side street. However, the contents of that briefcase contained £292 million in bearer bonds. Goddard was delivering Bank of England Treasury bills from banks and building societies. Due to the nature of bearer bonds, whoever is carrying them is deemed the owner. They are as good as cash. He was held at knifepoint, whilst his assailant made off with 301 Treasury bills, most valued at £1 million each. Keith Cheeseman was arrested in connection to the crime and received a 6 and a half year sentence. Police believe that the mugging was carried out by Patrick Thomas, but he was found dead of a gunshot wound to the head before he could be charged. All but 2 of the bonds were recovered after police and the FBI infiltrated the gang responsible. It’s amazing that the second largest robbery in history was carried out by a low level thief brandishing only a knife on an insignificant back street.

3) Boston Museum
18th March 1990- Boston, USA: $300 million
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Number three on our list is considered to be the biggest heist in the history of art objects. Two guys dressed as police officers, convinced the two inexperienced guards that someone from the building called them. Contrary to the policy of the museum, the guards let the "police" in the museum, and they soon realized their mistake. The robbers overcame them and handcuffed them in the basement. Amazingly, the two men committed the robbery without any evidence that they carried weapons. For the next 81 minutes, the two carefully selected 12 works of art which were worth more than $ 300 million 20 years ago ... Among the stolen works were the three Rembrandts. The two men then pulled out the tapes from the surveillance cameras and disappeared without a trace. In 1994, the police got a paper in which someone offered to give the paintings in exchange for 2.6 million dollars and the immunity from prosecution. However, the person who wrote that never called back. The case itself dictates that this was done by amateurs because they didn’t care if the pictures got damaged, and they left many expensive ones behind them. The case was never solved and the police are offering $ 5 million as a reward for any information on stolen works. Also, authorities have said they won’t prosecute anyone who just returns the paintings.

4) Baghdad Bank Robbery
12th July 2007- Baghdad, Iraq: $282 million
Employees of the Dar Es Salaam bank showed up to work one morning to find that the doors were unlocked, the vault open, and all the money was gone. It is believed that 3 guards at the bank made off with a staggering $282 million in this whopping haul. Yes, more than a quarter of a billion dollars! That’s more money than the entire economies of some small countries. It is unclear why the bank had such a large amount of cash on hand, but it was all in US currency. It is suspected that the guards had the assistance of militias, to avoid detection at security checkpoints around Baghdad, as having a lazy $282 million in the boot of your car might raise suspicions. No one has been brought to justice for this brazen crime and none of the money has been recovered. The robbery received surprisingly little media coverage.

5) Knightsbridge Security Deposit
12th July 1987-UK: £60 million
A31 Knightsbridge
Valerio Viccei migrated to the UK from Italy in 1986, where he was wanted for over 50 armed robberies. He decided to continue his successful trade in his new homeland, where he and an accomplice entered the Knightsbridge Safe Deposit Centre and asked to rent a Safe Deposit Box. After being led into the vault, they subdued the manager and the guards. Valerio hung a sign outside stating that the Deposit was temporarily closed to deter more customers, and then went about letting in more accomplices. The gang then plundered the safe deposit boxes at will and netted an estimated £60 million, which translates approximately into a whopping $174 million in today’s money. The police were not alerted until an hour after the robbery, giving the team plenty of time to flee the scene. Valerio fled to Latin America whilst his accomplices were arrested, then foolishly returned to England sometime later to retrieve his beloved Ferrari, where he was subsequently caught. He was sentenced to 22 years in prison. One would think that with the better part of $174 million, you would just buy another Ferrari. Or two. He was killed in 2000 while on day release in Italy, as a result of a gunfight with police.

6) British Bank of the Middle East
20th January, 1976- Beirut, Lebanon: £25 million
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The 1970s saw the rise of the PLO, a terrorist group led by Yasser Arafat, whose aim was to carve out a homeland for the Palestinian people. 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 £25 million worth of gold, jewels, stocks and currency, valued at much more than $100 million in today’s money. 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.

7) Schiphol Airport Heist
25th February 2005- Amsterdam: $118 million est.
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.) Whilst many of the other robberies on this list involve elegant planning and flawless execution, this was more akin to a smash and grab. 2 weeks prior to the robbery, 4 men stole a KLM cargo truck and KLM uniforms to divert suspicion until the last moment, so that they could move around the secure areas of the airport unhindered. (KLM is a major Dutch airline.) 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. Due to the fact that they knew exactly which truck to target, police suspect an inside job. It was the second time in 6 months that the airport terminal had been breached. Several men have been arrested in connection to the robbery.

8) United California Bank Robbery
24th March 1972- USA: $30 million est.
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Whilst $30 million may not seem like much compared to the other monsters on this list, bear in mind that this occurred back in 1972. By today’s standards, 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. I couldn’t dig up too much information on this robbery, as even the FBI website does not have an account of the robbery or investigation, so if anyone wishes to add more information in the comments, feel free.

9) Antwerp Diamond Center
16th February 2003- Belgium: $100 million+
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80% of all diamonds in the world pass through Antwerp, and the thieves know it! The city has seen many robberies, but this one is special because of thethe value of the stolen diamonds and the manner in which the robbery was performed. Booty was so great that the thieves could not take all the diamonds with them, but they still managed to empty 123 of 189 boxes of precious stones. Leonardo Notarbartolo, robber with a 30-year-old experience, was the leader of this gang. The mere robbery was planned for years, and at least four people were involved in it. They rented an office in the building three years before the robbery. Leonardo represented himself as a diamond merchant just to gain credibility and trust. He held meetings and carried out small business transactions, so no one doubted him. When the time for the robbery finally came, he put the false tapes security camera system in order to hide their movement through the building. The vault was protected with 10 security levels, including the infrared heat sensors, Doppler radar, magnetic fields, seismic sensors and locks with over 100 million combinations. This robbery is known as the robbery of the century even today mostly because the police cannot say who did it with certainty. Notarbartolo was caught after one of his accomplices forgot to burn the bag containing the evidence. Gems in the value of $ 100 million were never found, and Notarbartolo is currently serving a prison sentence of 10 years. Interestingly, Notarbartolo claims that a Jewish diamond dealer hired him for the robbery and that he and his group stole gems that are worth "only" 20 million, and that many of the boxes were empty when they entered the vault. He believes that they were only a small part in the great deception of the insurance companies. However, the police deny this possibility.

10) Harry Winston
5th December 2008-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. Harry Winston stock fell 9% the next day after word of the robbery got out. The store had been robbed the previous year, where thieves netted 10 million euros worth of jewels. One would think that perhaps it would be cheaper hiring some armed guards than getting robbed on a yearly basis. 25 people have since been arrested for the crime, aged 22 to 67. Good to see there is no age discrimination among thieves.



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