Top 5 Heists and Robberies
Posted on Sep 30, 2011

5. The Baker Street Burglary

The Baker Street burglary took place in London in 1971, when a team of well-equipped thieves tunneled into the Baker Street Bank and stole 3 million pounds worth of cash and valuables from safety deposit boxes. The criminals used a combination of metal cutting tools and explosives to tunnel to the vault from a nearby shop, and even had a lookout positioned on a nearby rooftop. Near the end of the heist, a ham radio operator overheard some of the lookout’s radio transmissions and contacted the police, who frantically searched over seven hundred banks within the area in hopes of honing in on the location of the transmission. They were unable to catch the robbers at the time, but nearly two years later a number of men were charged in connection with the robbery, though police believe the true mastermind behind the crime was never captured.

4. The Harry Winston Heist

One of the most downright brazen robberies in recent memory, the Harry Winston Heist went down in 2008 when a group of four men stormed into one of Paris’s most exclusive jewelry stores and made off with $108 million in diamonds. The men were disguised as women and armed with a .357 Magnum and a hand grenade. They quickly herded the employees and customers into a corner and started breaking open display cases, and after filling a suitcase with precious stones, made their escape. No one from this robbery has been arrested, but police suspect that the robbers– whom they’ve nicknamed “The Pink Panthers”– are a part of a larger criminal organization of Yugoslavians that may have been responsible for a number of other high profile jewelry heists. In the meantime, a $1 million dollar reward is still up for grabs for any information leading to the arrest of the thieves.

3. The Knightsbridge Security Deposit Robbery

One of the boldest and most successful robberies of all time, the Knightsbridge Security Deposit heist happened in London in 1987, when career criminal Valerio Viccei and a small group of accomplices armed with guns managed to make off with 60 million pounds in valuables and cash from safe deposit boxes. The thieves got into the vault by pretending to rent a safe deposit box of their own, and once inside they managed to overpower the employees and security guards and start breaking into the boxes. They escaped without incident, but a bit of blood left behind at the scene allowed police to trace the robbery back to Viccei, who was wanted for a huge amount of robberies in his native Italy. Viccei’s accomplices were quickly arrested, but he fled the country and for some time eluded capture. A known playboy and high roller, he was only arrested after he returned to England in an attempt to retrieve his prized Ferrari sports car.

2. The Banco Central Burglary

Considered to be among the biggest bank heists of all time, the Banco Central burglary took place in 2005 in Fortaleza, Brazil. The robbery was the result of painstaking planning by a small gang of burglars who tunneled over 250 feet to the bank’s vault from a nearby property. The robbers used a landscaping business as a front for their operation, an ingenious cover that allowed them to move massive amounts of dirt and rock out of the tunnel without looking suspicious. The tunnel itself was expertly constructed, and was said to have sophisticated lighting and even an air conditioning system. After three months of digging, the thieves finally broke into the vault and made off with over 165 million in Brazilian reals, or $70 million dollars U.S. Since then, police have made a number of arrests in connection with the burglary, and recovered roughly $9 million dollars of the haul, but the majority of the suspects are still at large.

1. The Antwerp Diamond Heist

Antwerp, Belgium is one of the diamond capitals of the world, with 80 percent of the world’s diamonds passing through the city before being sold on the market. A number of heists have taken place there, most recently a still-unsolved $28 million robbery in 2007, but the biggest of them all took place in 2003, when a team of master criminals known as the School of Turin managed to walk away with $100 million in uncut diamonds from the Antwerp Diamond Center vault. For sheer scope, ingenuity, and risk, few robberies will ever measure up to this one. The criminals had been planning the heist for years, and using copied keys and faked security camera footage, they managed to bypass the vault’s multi-million dollar security system, which had been thought to be impenetrable. The thieves escaped without incident, but DNA left at the scene allowed them to be tracked to Italy, where most of the gang has since been captured. The $100 million in diamonds, meanwhile, seems to have disappeared for good.


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