Top 10 Largest Bank Robberies in History

The most high-profile bank robberies in history

Along with winning the lottery, bank robbery is a time-honored method used by people who dream of never working again.

Of course, it’s a very extreme method. And it is only successful as long as you don’t get caught. But the undeniable fact is that there have been some very clever (or very lucky) people among the bank robbers who have managed to embezzle millions of dollars.

We will tell you about 10 of the most high-profile bank robberies in history. The amount stolen is given at the current exchange rate.

10. The robbery of the State Bank of the Armenian SSR (1977)

Theft: 1.5 million rubles

Nowadays, the sum of one and a half million rubles does not look like something astronomical. However, in Soviet times it was money which even a big official could not dream of, let alone an ordinary Russian. By comparison, a GAZ-24-10 Volga, a car of that time, could be bought for 12,000 rubles.

The robbery of the State Bank of the Armenian SSR was not only the largest in the Soviet Union, but also unique in its execution. It was perpetrated by two Kalachian cousins – Nikolai and Felix. The gunner was Nikolai’s friend Zaven Baghdasaryan, who was a member of the commission visiting the bank vault to recount the banknotes.

On August 5, 1977 Felix Kalachian, who was a candidate master of sports in gymnastics, climbed on the roof of a residential building, which had a common wall with the State Bank. Then he jumped through the open window of the bank’s room, which was on the third floor, one floor higher than the vault. Using an umbrella, hacksaw, chisel, crowbar, hammer and pobedite drill he made a 34-cm hole in the floor. And managed to crawl through it first to get the money, and then get back out with a backpack full of money.

The partners managed to spend one hundred thousand rubles before they were caught selling a batch of 100-ruble banknotes. The Kalachian brothers were sentenced to death, and the stolen money was returned to the state. Baghdasaryan was given 11 years in prison.

9. The Robbery of the Agricultural Bank of China (2007)

Theft: 51 million yuan (476 million rubles)

This is the largest and most famous bank robbery in Chinese history. The heist was perpetrated by Agricultural Bank of China employee Jen Xiaofeng, who first stole 200 thousand yuan to buy lottery tickets. According to Xiaofeng’s idea, he had to win enough money to cover the damage to the bank and still win. And you might be surprised, but the plan worked!

Encouraged by their success, Xiaofeng and his accomplice Ma Xiangqing took out enough money from the vault in a year to buy enough lottery tickets for the rest of their lives. Literally. Because when the bank management noticed that the money was missing, both managers were tried and executed.

8. A Bank Robbery in California, USA (1972)

Stolen: $30 million (1.9 billion rubles)

In 1972, Amil Dincio assembled a gang of six robbers and traveled with them to the California town of Laguna Niguel. There the criminals planned to rob the United California Bank, where (according to erroneous information) President Richard Nixon held a multi-million dollar loan fund.

The gang penetrated the vault with dynamite, making a hole in its reinforced concrete roof. And stole $30 million worth of money and valuables.

While the theft itself was flawlessly executed, the Dincio gang made the mistake of committing a similar crime in Ohio a few months later. The FBI linked the two thefts, and an examination of transportation records showed that the criminals all took the same flight to California, using their own names.

FBI agents also learned of a townhouse used by the bandits as their headquarters. Their fingerprints were found there. Eventually all of the criminals were caught, and most of the loot was recovered.

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7. The Brinks Robbery, England (1983)

Stolen: £26 million (2.1 billion rubles)

This famous bank robbery took place on the premises of a joint venture between Brink’s security firm and Mat, a valuable cargo transport company.

In November 1983, a Brink’s-Mat security guard named Anthony Black (the son-in-law of one of the criminals) let the robbers into the company’s warehouse at London’s Heathrow Airport. They tied up the other guards, doused them with gasoline, and threatened to burn them if they did not gain access to the vault.

The criminals quickly realized that the warehouse contained not only money, but also gold (6,800 gold bars) and uncut diamonds. They carried the loot to the truck and, as they left, wished the guards a Merry Christmas. Most of the robbers were caught, but the gold has not yet been found.

6. The Northern Bank robbery, Ireland (2004)

Stolen: £26.5 million (2.18 billion rubles)

A week before Christmas 2004, robbers in Belfast, Northern Ireland, dressed as police officers and broke into the homes of the manager and director of Northern Bank. They took their families hostage, and the bank employees themselves were ordered to go to work the next day as if nothing had happened.

When the working day was over, the bankers let the thieves into the bank, where they stole about 26.5 million pounds sterling.

The case was the largest bank robbery in Irish history, and the case is still unsolved. So far, only one person has been arrested for laundering the stolen money.

5. The Brazilian Central Bank robbery (2005)

Stolen: 160 million Brazilian reais (2.5 billion rubles)

This 2005 crime in Fortaleza, Brazil, was once recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as the greatest bank robbery in the world.

And it is interesting not only for the astronomical amount of money stolen, but also for the scale of the preparations. The criminals rented a commercial property in the city center and, posing as landscapers, spent three months digging a 200-meter tunnel. It was four meters underground and led to a bank vault.

So far, most of the stolen money has not been recovered.

4. Securitas vault robbery, England (2006)

Theft: 53 million pounds sterling (4.3 billion rubles)

The biggest heist in 21st century British history took place in 2006 at a collection company’s warehouse in Kent.

Men dressed in elaborate masks kidnapped Colin Dixon, director of the Securitas branch and took his family hostage. The robbers took him to a warehouse and forced him to give them access to the vault.

The robbers could have taken much more, but all the cash simply did not fit in the truck. So £153 million remained in the vault.

Despite their clever disguises, some of the robbers were caught, and the makeup artist who created the masks became a key witness in the case.

3. the Knightsbridge Deposit Centre robbery, England (1987)

Stolen: 30 to 60 million pounds sterling (4.9 billion rubles)

Italian criminal Valerio Viccei committed one of the most extravagant bank robberies of his time.

In 1987, he and an associate entered London’s Knightsbridge Bank, used by many famous and wealthy people, and asked to rent a safe deposit box. When they were led into the vault, the criminals pulled out guns and tied up the bank manager and guards.

After placing a sign reading “closed” on the bank’s door, Vicchei let several accomplices in. The bandits broke into as many safety deposit boxes as they could and scattered, carrying off the loot. It is still unknown exactly how much money they stole that day.

Vicchei fled to South America, but eventually returned to England, where a brand new Ferrari car and possibly no longer new handcuffs awaited him.

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2. the Dar Es Salaam Bank robbery, Iraq (2007)

Theft: $282 million (18 billion rubles)

Until now, little is known about the 2007 robbery that took place at the Dar Es Salaam Bank, a private financial institution in Baghdad. It is unclear why the bank had so much U.S. cash.

The theft was allegedly orchestrated by several bank guards. The government suspected that the robbers also had contacts in local police and security agencies, allowing them to pass undetected through many checkpoints in Baghdad.

There is still no further information about the whereabouts of the money or the perpetrators.

1. the Central Bank of Iraq robbery (2003)

Stolen: more than $920 million (59 billion rubles)

Neither before nor after 2003 had the banking world known such a large-scale heist as the one in Iraq. Its leader was none other than the Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

The day before the war in Iraq began in 2003, he sent three large trucks to the Central Bank. He also gave his son Qusay a note asking him to withdraw nearly $1 billion to keep it out of enemy hands. The money was loaded into vans and taken away.

Most of the money (about $650 million) was found in Hussein’s palace. U.S. soldiers tasked with counting the loot could not resist temptation and embezzled hundreds of thousands of dollars. Of these, 35 soldiers were caught. And how many more are still spending Hussein’s money is unknown.

The 10 most high-profile robberies in history

Committing a robbery can not only make you a target for the police, but also get your share of fame. It is enough just to steal an impressive amount of money, preferably several million dollars. And then the media will talk about the crime, and the thieves will be sought throughout the world. Many people even dream of committing such a theft, which would provide them with free money for the rest of their lives.

Fortunately, in most cases, it never goes beyond fantasy. However, forensic science knows of several cases where people have managed to pull off a robbery for the rest of their lives. These high-profile crimes have already become part of history, but it was not always possible to escape a fair justice.

Photo: 10 of the loudest heists in history No. 1 - BigPicture.ru

1. Harry Winston’s Jewelry House

Photo: 10 loudest heists in history #2 - BigPicture.ru

Harry Winston’s Jewelry House is the most popular in Hollywood. At the Oscar ceremonies, many stars are seen wearing jewelry rented from this maker. Harry Winston is also associated with one of the most famous heists in modern history.

In 2009, four armed men entered a jewelry boutique on the Champs-Élysées in Paris just before closing time. Three of them were wearing women’s clothes, including wigs.

The criminals cleaned out the windows and even forced the staff to open the vault. They clearly did not have enough of the stolen millions. As a result, the thieves took all the jewelry out of the store. The amount of stolen goods was estimated at 80 million euros. After it became known about the theft, the jewelry house shares immediately fell by 9%.

Photo: 10 loudest heists in history #3 - BigPicture.ru

The Pink Panthers is an organization created by natives of Yugoslavia, and it operates in many European countries. The cartel specializes in theft of luxury goods, but is not bent upon drugs, smuggling, and murder. I must say that the affected boutique was robbed the year before this incident. Then the thieves took away jewelry worth 10 million euros.

2. Theft of diamonds in Antwerp

Photo: 10 loudest heists in history #4 - BigPicture.ru

Not nearly everyone knows that 80% of all uncut diamonds pass through Antwerp. But the criminals are in possession of such information. As a result, there have been quite a few thefts involving precious stones in the city. But this crime stands out from the rest both in terms of technique and the amount stolen.

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The trophy was so large that the thieves could hardly carry it out. Of the 160 vaults of the diamond exchange, 123 were emptied. This audacious crime was planned by Leonardo Notarbartolo, a thief with 30 years of criminal experience.

Photo: 10 highest-profile heists in history #5 - BigPicture.ru

On February 15, 2003, during a weekend, the perpetrators taped over the lenses of the video cameras and switched the tapes in the cameras, which concealed their actions. Although the vault was protected by ten kinds of security technology, including infrared and magnetic sensors and a lock with 100 million combinations, the thieves still somehow got into the vault. The police were never able to figure out exactly how the bandits were able to bypass the security. The thieves unhurriedly emptied almost all the safes, but they just could not carry away all their contents – the floor was strewn with diamonds. The jewels belonged to 70 individuals and organizations.

The best detectives got involved in the investigation. A day later, Leonardo Notarbartolo was arrested. His accomplices, his wife and a Dutch couple, were also caught. They were found evidence of a high-profile case. But the diamonds themselves, worth 100 million dollars, were not found. Notarbartolo is now serving a long sentence in prison. Interestingly, at the trial, he said they were hired by a Jewish trader, but stole only part of the diamonds worth 20 million dollars. By the time the thieves arrived at the vault, some of the safes had already been emptied. Notarbartolo believes he was set up, making the bandits part of a larger insurance scam. The police did not believe this version and later apprehended three more accomplices of the thieves.

3. the United California bank robbery

Photo: 10 highest-profile heists in history #6 - BigPicture.ru

This story took place back in the 1970s. Today, the value of what was stolen is estimated at $100 million. In those years it was a record robbery. The Ohio burglars had seven men and were led by Emile Dincio.

A gang called Laguna Niguel broke into one of the California United chain banks. The thieves quickly cleared out the vault. The exact contents of the vault were unknown, so the amount stolen could only be estimated. The FBI eventually arrested the criminals as they were unable to stop and got back on the case. One of the thieves later described the incident in the book Supervor.

4. British Bank of the Middle East

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In the 1970s, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) was active in terrorism. The Arabs, led by Yasser Arafat, wanted to reclaim some land to live in Palestine. The PLO waged a real war, which required a lot of money. In those years, a civil war was raging in Lebanon, so there was a lot of chaos in the country. PLO militants then robbed more than ten banks, the most famous of which was the British Bank of the Middle East.

They managed to get $25 million in gold, currency, stocks and jewelry from the bank. To get to the vault, the thieves even blew up the bank’s wall. Specialists brought in from Corsica worked on the vault. The stolen shares were eventually sold back to their owners.

5. The theft at Schiphol airport

Photo: 10 loudest heists in history #8 - BigPicture.ru

This is the biggest theft of diamonds in history. The thieves managed to steal about $118 million worth of gems. However, it is difficult to estimate the exact value of the diamonds, as many of them were uncut. This implies their relative valuation and additional difficulty in finding them.

While many famous thefts are characterized by subtlety and finesse of execution, in this case the thieves acted head-on. A month before the crime, a gang of four men had stolen a maintenance man’s uniform and a truck. Thus, until the very last moment, the thieves did not draw attention to themselves on the guarded grounds of Amsterdam Airport. On February 25, 2005, the valuable cargo was supposed to be shipped to Antwerp. In full view of everyone, the thieves forced the truck driver to get out at gunpoint. The thieves got into the car containing the diamonds and drove off. Given that the truck was not randomly chosen, the police suspected an inside leak. This was not the first time that the airport’s secure terminal was unable to resist the criminals. So the owners of the stolen diamonds quite logically ask questions about the level of security. Although several people have been arrested in the course of the investigation, no one has been able to find the stolen goods yet.

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6. Knightsbridge Bank

Photo: 10 loudest heists in history #9 - BigPicture.ru

After Valerio Viccei got tired of hiding from the police for his 54 armed robberies, he moved from his native Italy to the UK in 1986. The bandit decided to continue his activities already in the new country. He came to Knightsbridge Bank with a request to check the safe deposit box he had rented there. On the way to it, Vicchei neutralized the guard. The thief was aided in this by the manager, who, because of his cocaine addiction, fell into the Italian’s web. A sign was posted on the vault that it was temporarily closed. The manager changed guards and disabled the security cameras. The thieves quietly cleaned out the financial institution, taking with them 60 million pounds sterling. At today’s prices, this amount has tripled.

The authorities learned about the robbery only an hour later, which was enough time for the thieves to flee the scene. Authorities only had a fragment of the print. Interpol found out it belonged to Viccei. Valerio managed to escape to Latin America, but all of his accomplices in England were arrested. Surprisingly, his instincts betrayed the bandit – he decided to return to England for his beloved Ferrari and follow its shipment.

The police arrested the audacious robber, and the court sentenced him to 22 years in prison. Investigators were able to recover only 10 million, the rest of the money settled somewhere in South America. The 45-year-old thief, when released, did not break with his criminal past and was killed in a shootout in 2000, when he was on his way to another bank robbery. Money wasn’t that important to him – robbery and fame became a kind of drug for Vicchei.

7. The Mysterious Baghdad Thief

Photo: 10 highest-profile heists in history #10 - BigPicture.ru

In 2007, there was a robbery in Baghdad of the private bank Dar es Salaam. When employees went to work in the morning, they found the doors of the institution open, the safe unlocked, and all the money gone from it. Along with $282 million, three security guards had also disappeared. The enormous sum exceeds the budgets of some poor countries. This robbery raises more questions than it answers. It is not clear why there was such a huge amount in dollars in the bank and not in the local currency.

How did the robbers manage to get so much money out without being noticed? Perhaps the thieves were aided by the local police, who led them through security checkpoints. In the end the robbers were never caught. In fact, Iraq has the world’s highest number of jobs lost through bank robbery. Every month at least $1 million is stolen here.

8. Boston Museum.

Photo: 10 highest-profile heists in history #11 - BigPicture.ru

On March 18, 1990, two men in police uniforms convinced guards at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston that they were on a call. Allegedly an alarm had gone off, so they needed to check the halls. The guards, contrary to their instructions, allowed the new arrivals into the museum. The thieves immediately handcuffed the guards and took them to the basement. The bandits did not even carry weapons. Over the next 81 minutes, the thieves chose 12 paintings they particularly liked and carried them away with the tape of surveillance cameras.

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The amount of stolen goods is estimated at 300 million dollars – among the paintings were the creations of Vermeer and Rembrandt. The police could not find any trace of the attackers. True, in 1994, an anonymous source offered to return the stolen goods for the amount of 2.6 million dollars in exchange for a waiver of further prosecution. However, the story with that note never continued.

Police can only speculate that amateurs carried out the robbery. The fact is that they were quite careless with the paintings, and the most valuable samples remained untouched. Today established a reward of $ 5 million for any information about the stolen paintings. The authorities have even promised not to prosecute their new owner.

9. The Bond Theft

Photo: 10 highest-profile heists in history #12 - BigPicture.ru

This robbery on a quiet London street would have looked like a regular street robbery if it weren’t for one thing. Courier John Goddard, 58, was carrying $292 million worth of valuable bonds in his briefcase. These checks belonged to a bank of the English treasury and housing and construction companies. The essence of the bonds is that whoever holds them is considered the owner. They are essentially a kind of cash. Goddard was held a knife to the throat and the briefcase was taken away.

Police eventually arrested Keith Cheeseman, who was jailed for six and a half years. The perpetrator of the crime, however, is named Patrick Thomas, who was found shot in the head. In the end the police apprehended the gang of thieves, only two criminals remained unknown to the authorities. What remains surprising is the fact that one of the most high-profile robberies of our time was committed on an ordinary dark street with a knife.

10. Central Bank of Iraq

Photo: 10 most famous heists in history #13 - BigPicture.ru

This robbery is again related to Iraq, a country where the disappearance of money from a bank no longer surprises anyone. Usually crimes of this kind require painstaking planning, often involving the use of force. But in this case, the robbery was both simple and effective. The fact is that the ruler of Iraq, Saddam Hussein, over time began to regard the entire country as his fiefdom. And he perceived the Central Bank of Iraq as a personal repository for his money.

Early in the morning of March 18, 2003, just hours before the start of the military campaign against the country, Saddam Hussein’s youngest son and a close aide appeared at the office of the main financial institution. They demanded $900 million and 100 million euros. Instead of documents, the couple presented only Saddam Hussein’s personal order to give them the requested amount. The bankers decided that the personal orders of the head of the country were better followed than discussed. The dictator’s envoys refused to say why they needed so much money or where it would be moved. It took the bank two hours to load the cash, and they ended up spread out over three trucks. Even before the day’s work began, the thieves drove off with a billion dollars. And that amount equals a quarter of Iraq’s foreign exchange reserves.

Bankers report that Hussein and members of his family used to go to banks for cash, but they did it infrequently and the amount did not exceed $5 million. Americans believe that the dictator needed such a substantial sum to use it abroad in case of his defeat in the war. However, Hussein was caught and executed, and later his son was killed. And then it became unclear who had taken the money. The new authorities managed to find only $650 million, hidden in a cache in the palace of the former leader. The rest of the money was never found. They say they were taken to Syria.

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