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12 Biggest Robberies in History

For those who imagine what it feels like to never have to work again in their life, elaborate scams, bank robberies and heists always present the opportunity to make that imagination a reality, as long as they don’t get caught, which is very unlikely. For those that do not mind the risk, there’s no limit to what they can do and steal, as evident in the list below. This list consists of grand thefts and heist that gained immense attention either for their execution or the amount stolen.

1. Central Bank of Iraq

One day before United States forces invaded Baghdad, a handwritten note signed by Saddam Hussein was sent to the Central Bank of Iraq, ordering $920 million to be withdrawn and given to his son Qusay Hussein. Bank officials state that Qusay and another unidentified man oversaw the cash, boxes of $100 bills secured with stamped seals known as security money, being loaded into trucks and trailers during a five-hour operation.

2. Bank of England Treasury

On the morning of May 2nd, 1990, John Goddard, a 58-year-old messenger with the money broker was mugged at knifepoint on a quiet side street in the City of London.  The robbery consisted of the theft of 301 treasury bills and certificates of deposit, and the total haul was £292m (£668 million in today’s currency)

3. Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum theft

On March 18, 1990, in what is regarded as America’s greatest heist, 13 works of art were stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston in the early hours. The two thieves walked into the Museum, tied up security guards and looted hundreds of millions of dollars worth of art.The FBI has valued the haul at $500 million, and no arrests have been made and no works have been recovered.

4. The Dar Es Salaam Bank heist

On July 11, 2007, thieves suspected to be bank guards stole $282 million ($359 million in today’s money) from the Dar Es Salaam Bank in Baghdad. The government suspected the robbers also had contacts within local police and militias that allowed them to pass through the many checkpoints across Baghdad undetected. Questions about the identity of the robbers, their actual number, and why the bank had so much American cash on hand to steal, remain unanswered

5. Knightsbridge Security Deposit robbery

The Knightsbridge Security Deposit robbery took place on 12 July 1987 in Cheval Place, Knightsbridge, England, and led by Valerio Viccei who was already wanted for 50 armed robberies. On the day of the robbery, the two men entered the Knightsbridge Safe Deposit Centre and requested to rent a safe deposit box. After being shown into the vault, they drew handguns, subdued the manager and security guards, and then hung a sign on the street-level door explaining that the Safe Deposit Centre was temporarily closed. They broke open many of the safe deposit boxes and left with a hoard estimated to be worth £60 million (around 170 million today).

6. Harry Wilson heist

Just before closing time, four men, three disguised as women with long blond tresses, sunglasses and winter scarves requested to be buzzed into the Harry Wilson Jewelry store. Upon entering, they pulled out a hand grenade and a .357 Magnum and in less than 15 minutes, had executed the heist, carting away with bags of emeralds, rubies and chunky diamonds the size of tiny bird eggs valued at $131 million in today’s money, giving the police no time to react

7. Antwerp diamond heist

The Antwerp diamond heist, dubbed the “heist of the century”, was one of the largest robberies in history. $100 million worth loose diamonds, gold, and jewellery were stolen during the weekend of 15–16 February 2003. This elaborate heist took more than two years of meticulous planning which included renting an office space above the Diamond Center in order to gain unrestricted access to the building and gain credibility. The robbers even stole security footage from the building to avoid being identified.

8. British Bank of the Middle East

In January 1976 in Beirut, Lebanon, £25 million, the equivalent of £100 million today was taken by the PLO, a terrorist group determined on carving out a homeland for the Palestinian people. The operation took 2 days, 6-15 people involved with $25 million pounds in gold, jewels, stocks and currency being taken.

9. Brink’s-Mat robbery

99Described as  “the crime of the century, the Brink’s-Mat robbery occurred early on 26 November 1983 when six robbers broke into the Brink’s-Mat warehouse. The gang gained entry to the warehouse from security guard Anthony Black. Once inside, they poured petrol over staff and threatened them with a lit match if they did not reveal the combination numbers of the vault. The robbers had the intention of stealing £3.2 million in cash, but they found three long tons (3,000 kilograms; 98,000 troy ounces) of gold bullion and stole £26 million (over £88 million in 2020 pounds) worth of gold, diamonds, and cash.

10. Banco Central burglary

The Banco Central burglary at Fortaleza, one of the world’s largest heists, saw the theft of about R$160 million (about $71.6 million at 2005 exchange rate) from the vault of the Banco Central branch located in Fortaleza, in the state of Ceará, Brazil, on August 6, 2005. The 25-member gang set up a fake landscaping business and spent three months digging a 256-foot tunnel that led up through the bank’s vault floor. Only eight people were arrested, and just R$20 million was recovered.

11. United California Bank robbery

The United California Bank burglary took place on 24 March 1972, when the safe deposit vault at United California Bank in Laguna Niguel, California, was broken into and $9 million ($56 million today) in cash and valuables were looted by professional burglars led by Amil Dinsio. Dinsio, a professional criminal from Ohio, having mistakenly heard of a bank where  Richard Nixon kept a multimillion dollar slush fund, assembled a gang of six robbers and flew them to California. They used dynamites and were able to escape, but the police eventually identified them through a tip as well as fingerprint samples..

12. The Securitas depot robbery

The Securitas depot robbery was the largest cash robbery in the world during peacetime, masterminded by mixed martial arts fighter Lee Murray. It took place on the evening of 21 February 2006 from 18:30 GMT until the early hours of 22 February 2006. Several men in elaborate masks, armed with AK47s, and Škorpions abducted and threatened the family of the manager, tied up fourteen staff members and stole cash worth over £53 million in bank notes belonging to the Bank of England from a Securitas Cash Management Ltd depot.

Written by Emeka Nweze

Content writer and contributor.

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