11 of the biggest heists in history – AND COUNTING

However, some of these delinquents have made the perfect plan and managed to get away with sums of cash that have added up to have a higher worth than some countries.

(All the values given for each robbery are not inflated, they represent the exact value that had been stolen at the time.)

British Bank of the Middle East, 20th of January 1976, Beirut, Lebanon

Picture of the Bank after the Heist (Source: Public Domain)

Lebanon was in the middle of a civil war, and in this chaos, an OEP-affiliated group broke into 12 banks, the largest of which was the British Bank of the Middle East.

The group came out with 25 million pounds in gold, jewelry, and currency, which today would have been worth over 100 million dollars.

The group detonated the wall of the bank that was shared with that of a neighboring Catholic church.

With the help of some Corsican locksmiths, the thieves opened the safe and took everything they caught — for two days!

Subsequently, some of the stolen goods were sold back to the owners.

9. United California Bank, 24th of March 1972, California USA

Harry James Barber’s FBI report (Source: Public Domain)

30 million dollars may not seem a lot today or compare to other robberies, but back in 1972, it was big money.

If inflation is taken into account, today it could be equivalent to over $ 100 million.

A group of seven people from Ohio, led by Amil Dionisio, broke into a United California Bank branch in Laguna Niguel, California, and looted the bank’s safe.

Given that the policy regarding safe deposit boxes was not to state their contents, only an estimate of the stolen amount could be made.

Eventually, the thieves were caught by the FBI.

One of those involved, Phil Christopher, wrote a testimony about the robbery in the book “Super Thief”.

Guns and money recovered from the robbery (Source: Public Domain)

Valerio Vicci emigrated to England from Italy in 1986, where he was wanted by police for more than 50 armed robberies.

He decided to continue with his old habits in the new homeland, where, together with an accomplice, he entered the headquarters of the Knightsbridge Security Warehouse and asked to rent one of the safes.

After the two were taken to the safe, they attacked the manager and the guards.

Valerio put out a sign saying that the warehouse was temporarily closed to prevent other customers from entering, and then let other accomplices by creating his own entry.

The gang of thieves began looting the safes at will and stole an estimated £ 60 million (around 90 Million US Dollars) which today stands at a fabulous £ 174 million (around 220 Million US Dollars).

Police were not alerted until an hour after the robbery, which gave the thieves enough time to flee the scene.

Valerio fled to Latin America, and his accomplices were arrested.

However, at one point, Valerio returned to England to retrieve his abandoned Ferrari but was arrested.

He was killed in 2000 on the day of his release in Italy, following an exchange of fire with the police.

One of the robbers filmed by a security camera (Source: Public Domain)

Four gunmen broke into the downtown Harry Winston-owned luxury jewelry store shortly after closing time.

After they stole the jewelry from the display boxes, they forced the store employees to open the safe in the back as well, as if the jewelry in the store, which was worth millions of dollars, was not enough.

The next day, after finding out about the robbery, it was found that the stock of Harry Winston’s company decreased by 9%.

The store had also been looted a year ago when thieves stole 10 million euros in jewelry.

25 people were arrested for robbery, aged between 22 and 67.

The Diamond Center’s vault after the robbery (Source: Public Domain)

The city has a fairly rich history of robberies, but one, in particular, has gone down in history — both in terms of the amount stolen and the method used by thieves.

The number of safes was so large that thieves simply could not carry everything and were limited to 123 out of 189 safes.

Leonardo Notarbartolo, a 30-year-old career thief, was the leader of the criminal group.

It took several years to plan in detail the robbery in which at least 4 people were involved.

They rented office space in the building where the safe was located three years in advance, and here Leonardo claimed to be an Italian diamond dealer to gain the trust of others.

When it came time to act, they inserted fake tapes into the surveillance cameras to cover their tracks.

The safe was protected with 10 levels of security, including infrared heat detectors, Doppler radar, magnetic field, a seismic sensor, and a locking system with 100 million possible combinations.

The robbery was considered the theft of the century, and even now the police cannot explain exactly how it was done.

Gems worth more than $ 100 million were never found, and Notarbartolo was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

The situation is even more interesting as the defendant claimed to have been hired by a Jewish diamond dealer, and they managed to steal only $ 20 million worth of diamonds, as many of the safes were already empty.

Amsterdam Airport Schiphol (Source: Public Domain)

The Schiphol Airport heist is the largest diamond robbery in history.

The estimated amount is 120 million dollars because many of the precious stones were not cut, which makes it more difficult to specify their value, this means that their worth could have been even bigger.

If most of the robberies involved careful planning and impeccable execution, this was more rudimentary.

Two weeks before the robbery, four people stole a KLM cargo truck [KLM is a Dutch airline] and KLM uniforms to dispel last-minute suspicions so they could walk through the airport security areas without being disturbed.

On February 25, the thieves went directly to a KLM truck carrying a large safe containing uncut diamonds which was heading to Antwerp.

Because they knew exactly which truck was the target, police suspected it was a planned action from inside.

It was the second time in six months that a crime had taken place in the airport terminal.

Several people were arrested in this robbery due to a large number of suspects.

Picture of the money inside the safe before being stolen, estimated at 282 Million US Dollars (Source: Public Domain)

Dar Es Salaam bank employees came to work one morning and were stunned to find that the doors were unlocked, the safe was open, and all the money was missing.

Three bank guards were believed to have fled with the $ 282 million safe — more than the economies of small countries!

It is not clear why there was such a large amount of cash in the bank, but it was all US dollars.

It is suspected that the guards also had the help of some militiamen, in order not to be caught at the security points around Baghdad.

No one was brought to justice for the crime, and the money was not recovered.

Empty picture frames tossed on the floor in Gardner Museum (Source: Public Domain)

This was the largest art robbery in history.

Two men dressed as police officers convinced two inexperienced Gardner Museum guards that they had been summoned following a complaint.

Surprisingly, the two thieves managed to do this without any weapons on them.

Then, in the next 81 minutes, the two sat down and leisurely chose 12 pieces of art that together were worth $ 300 million the value of 25 years ago.

Among the stolen paintings were 3 works by Rembrandt and Vermeer.

However, in 1994 an offer was made to return the paintings for $ 2.6 million and to guarantee immunity from justice.

Most likely the thieves were not art lovers, as they damaged a series of paintings and left behind much more valuable works.

The case has not been resolved and there is still a $ 5 million reward for any information about the artwork.

384 Million Dollars Stolen

384 Million Dollars Stolen

384 Million Dollars Stolen

384 Million Dollars Stolen

384 Million Dollars Stolen

384 Million Dollars Stolen

384 Million Dollars Stolen

384 Million Dollars Stolen

384 Million Dollars Stolen

A canceled £ 1 million Treasury Bill that was one of the last ever to be produced (Source: Public Domain)

John Goddard was a 58-year-old postman who worked for Sheppards, who was robbed while carrying a briefcase on a quiet alley in London.

The briefcase contained 292 million pounds in bonds(around 384 million US dollars).

Goddard delivers treasury bills from banks and construction companies.

He was threatened with a knife, while an accomplice of the offender collected 301 treasury bills, most worth £ 1 million each.

Keith Cheeseman was arrested in connection with the crime and received six and a half years in prison.

Police believe the robbery was committed by Patrick Thomas, but he was found dead by shooting himself in the head.

Except for two receipts, all were recovered by police.

Bank of Irak, 18th of March 2003, Bagdad, Irak

1 Billion Dollars Stolen

Some of Qusay’s gold found by the US Army, one bar weighing about 40 kilograms and worth 2.1 million dollars per gold bar (Source: Public Domain)

Some robberies require careful planning, others used brute force.

But the biggest robbery in history was as simple as it was effective.

Iraq was Saddam Hussein’s fiefdom, so the Central Bank of Iraq was “his personal bank account.” The day before Coalition forces began bombing Iraq, Saddam sent his son Qusay to withdraw on his behalf with a handwritten note pretty much all of the cash inside the bank.

Qusay oversaw the withdrawal of $ 100 paper-filled safes in a five-hour action that enriched the dictator with $ 1 billion.

He was unlucky, as his son was later killed by US forces, and after Saddam’s capture, about $ 650 million was found by American soldiers hidden in the walls of one of Saddam’s palaces.

The other $ 350 million was considered lost because it could no longer be found.

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The real pros steal money in super-massive amounts, on an industrial scale.

And for really big thefts, you need to be organized and connected — meaning businesses and politicians rank high on the list of the world’s greatest heists.

More than US$1 trillion — that’s $1,000,000,000,000 — is siphoned out of developing countries every year, often with the help of anonymous shell companies, which are secretive entities that hide the identities of the real owners.

1. The Great Mining Robbery

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, anonymous shell companies purchased mines for as little as 1-16th of their actual value, and then resold them at full price, siphoning off money that should have accrued to the state.

The DRC ranks at the bottom of the UN’s Human Development Index, has some of the world’s worst malnutrition, the world’s sixth highest child mortality rate, and over 7 million children out of school.

2. Great Train Robbery

The theft of £2.6 million (US$3.4 million) doesn’t sound that much these days, but that was big money when thieves stole mailbags from a Royal Mail train in England in 1963.

Accomplished using only a metal bar, the tale of the theft has entered British history.

He is widely believed to have taken between US$5 billion and US$10 billion, through government loans, bribes, embezzlement, taking over private companies and outright theft.

The proceeds were put in foreign bank accounts and invested in real estate in the US.

Authorities have so far recovered more than US$4 billion of stolen assets.

By the time he died of a heart attack in 1998, General Sani Abacha had reportedly stolen between US$3 billion and US$5 billion in his five years of governing Nigeria.

He got money through dodgy bond deals, but also by simply taking tens of millions in cash from the Central Bank for “national security” projects.

Nigerian officials have managed to reclaim a small part of the money through smart sleuthing and hard-fought legal battles.

But the bulk of it remains missing, in part because he used anonymous shell companies to hide the money in countries around the world.

Former Haitian President “Baby Doc” Duvalier may top the list here, given how much money he is believed to have stolen from a small, poor country.

“Duvalier allegedly stole the equivalent of 1.7% to 4.5% of Haitian GDP for every year he was in power,” according to the World Bank.

The search for his money is still going on, decades after he lost power in 1986.

Iraq’s dictator took money the easy way: he asked.

At 9.30 a.m. on May 2, 1990, messenger John Goddard was walking down a side street in the City of London when someone pulled a knife on him and stole his briefcase.

It goes down as the most lucrative mugging in history: the case contained £292 million in bonds that were as good as cash.

Also known as “Gribodemon” and “Harderman,” this Russian cyberthief was responsible for malicious software known as “SpyEye,” which infected more than 1.4 million computers and collected bank accounts, credit card numbers and passwords.

“He commercialized the wholesale theft of financial and personal information,” said a US official.

No one really knows, but estimates run into the hundreds of billions.

Bernie Madoff conned investors out of US$65 billion, making most of the others on our list look like small-time amateurs.

He used a Ponzi scheme — convincing people he could deliver high returns, bringing in new investors and using their money to pay off older ones — all while pocketing his own share.

When investors started asking for their money back, the house of cards structure collapsed.

In 2011, subsidiaries of Shell and ENI paid US$1.1 billion to the Nigerian government for an offshore block with estimated oil reserves of 9 billion barrels.

The government transferred exactly the same amount to an account earmarked for Malabu Oil & Gas, an anonymous shell company whose hidden owner was Dan Etete.

After years of legal battles, the oil block was taken from Malabu Oil & Gas and awarded to Shell and ENI, who then paid the money to the Nigerian government, allegedly with knowledge that it would be forwarded to Etete’s company.

That US$1.1 billion could have been used to fully immunize every single child under 5 in the country.

Both Shell and ENI are the focus of corruption investigations in Italy, Netherlands and the UK.

One of the largest companies in the world was also one of the largest corrupters.

Siemens, a German electrical company, paid hundreds of millions in bribes in at least a dozen countries.

“Bribery was nothing less than standard operating procedure at Siemens,” said a US official, using “the time-tested method of suitcases filled with cash.” It paid the largest-ever corporate fines related to foreign bribery, in the US and Germany.

If you add up all of the money from these heists, it doesn’t come close to $1 trillion.

But if you add up how much gets taken out of developing countries every year — in cons, thefts, bribes, corporate schemes, tax dodging and other scams, many of them involving anonymous shell companies — you’ll get $1 trillion.

Tell your US Senator it’s time to put an end to the use of anonymous shell companies: take action now.

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