In the US, a burglary occurs every 14.6 seconds. Hear that glass breaking? In the time it takes you to read the introduction to this article, another one will happen. Go ahead – read it with your stop watch running. While most of these crimes are committed by small-time crooks that eventually get caught by all home security systems; every now and then a mastermind feat of planning pulls off a heist worthy of a place in the Ocean’s movies dynasty.
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When this happens, we can’t help but admire the creativity and daring that made it all possible – as long as it didn’t involve any of our stuff. If you fantasize about pulling off the “big one,” read through this list of the best orchestrated burglaries in history instead.
1. The Antwerp Diamond Job
VALUE: $100 Million
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This was definitely a heist worthy of a movie. In true Mission Impossible style, the perpetrators of this 2003 heist successfully defeated ten layers of security for a massive haul in uncut diamonds. Get this: The School of Turin, as this group called themselves, planned this theft for years, got their hands on copied keys, faked footage for the security cameras, defeated the high tech security system that cost millions by itself and got away clean – or almost clean.
They left behind traces of DNA that led to the capture of most of the gang in Italy. Even though they were apprehended, the diamonds are still lost on the black market – as are another $28 million worth from an unsolved burglary in 2007. Pssst – if you have any diamonds in Antwerp, you might want to put them in a safer place. And, if you’re planning on stealing diamonds from Antwerp, buy a pair of gloves, for Pete’s sake.
2. The Greatest Baghdad Bank Robbery (That You’ve Never Heard Of)
VALUE: $282 Million
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You’d think this one would have been major news, but it was barely even mentioned. In 2007, someone made off with $282 million from the Dar Es Salaam Bank in Baghdad – all in US funds. If the rumors are true and it was an inside job pulled off by the three guards on duty, the robbery itself didn’t take much planning; this trio didn’t even bother to close the vault when they were done.
But, getting out of Baghdad with that much cash would have been a little tricky. Because no one has ever been caught, even though the identity of the guards is clearly known, it is thought that they had the help of the local militia. Or, maybe they haven't been caught because the militia helped themselves to the money.
3. The Banco Central Caper
VALUE: $70 Million
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This job not only took planning, it took a lot of back-breaking effort. In 2005 in Fortaleza, Brazil, a small gang of thieves tunneled through more than 250 feet of real estate to reach the bank vault. To cover their tracks, and the massive amount of dirt, this group masqueraded as a landscaping business and constructed a sophisticated structure complete with lighting and air.
It took three months, but they reached their target. With 165 million Brazilian in hand, this crew was filthy rich. Since then, a few arrests have been made and about $9 million has been recovered, but most of the gang is still kickin’ it with the rest of the loot.
4. The Knightsbridge Security Deposit Hold-Up
VALUE: $96 Million of Goodies
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In 1987, Valerio Viccei and crew planned a bold hit on London’s Knightsbridge Security Deposit. The gang pretended to rent their own security box to get in and then held the bank employees at gunpoint while they literally hauled out an estimated 60 million pounds (or $96 million in USD) worth of cash and valuables from the other safe deposit boxes.
The Viccei gang escaped from the scene of the crime, but a small amount of blood was left behind. This was used to pin the blame on Viccei who was wanted on robbery charges in Italy, his native country. His mates were soon behind bars, but Viccei wasn’t caught until he tried to slip back into England to pick up his favorite car, a Ferrari. What is it with these Italian boys and the traceable evidence?
5. The Great Train Robbery
VALUE: $74 Million
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Everyone has heard of this one. Back in 1963, a group of 15 men used a fake train signal to stop a mail train in Buckinghamshire, England. On board were millions of pounds – about $74 million worth. The gang of thieves physically subdued the team of workers and moved the mail bags filled with cash to a fleet of nearby cars.
The entire group escaped from the train, but 13 were caught soon afterwards. Scotland Yard discovered their hideout and lifted enough fingerprints to identify then. Two of the robbers escaped from prison and fled the country.
6. The Harry Winston Heist
VALUE: $108 Million
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In 2008, four men stormed the Harry Winston jewelry store in Paris and stole about $108 million worth of diamonds. This quad was dressed in drag and armed with a hand grenade and a .357 Magnum worthy of a Dirty Harry movie. Once the customers and employees were contained in a corner, they simply busted the cases, filled a suitcase with diamonds and took off without so much as a goodbye.
No one has been arrested to date, but the police believe that this group is a part of a Yugoslavian organized crime syndicate that has pulled off a number of similar robberies. If you’d like to get your million bucks the legal way, bring this group, “The Pink Panthers”, in bounty-hunter style – or simply snitch on this group of thieves. A million-dollar reward is still posted for anyone who can supply information that leads to their apprehension. It should be easy - just listen for that famous Pink Panther theme music before you make the call.
If you’re still thinking about knocking over that bank or jewelry store, keep this in mind: the vast majority of these criminal masterminds were eventually caught despite their planning skills. No amount of cash or jewels is worth the loss of your freedom. Your best bet is to just read a few of these stories and leave the planning to George and Brad.