There has probably been a time in your life when you were really struggling with your finances and thought the only solution would be to rob a bank. In the end, you most likely passed on that idea since it hardly ever works outside of video games. There have been a select few to pull off grand heist’s, particularly in the last decade, despite technological advances to catch thieves.
Not all of the biggest robberies to ever happen were at banks. Other targets got hit for millions, as well. Museums, airports, and diamond stores are all susceptible to big time robbers looking to make the largest score of their lives. Don’t think of this as motivation by any means to steal, but more as an entertainment piece to see what some people tried to get away with.
So who were the biggest robbers of all-time? To really make this list accurate, inflation and exchange rates are considered. You will see at certain points in time, $30 million was worth more than $100 million now. If you could go back in time 40 years, rob a bank and invest it at another bank, your present self would be filthy rich! Until that’s possible, you’ll just have to see how these robbers committed the biggest robberies of all-time.
#1 – Central Bank of Iraq – Iraq, 2003 ($1 Billion)
It might come as no surprise that the mastermind behind the biggest bank robbery is none other than Saddam Hussein. The day before his country came under attack by American troops, Hussein sent his son out to the Central Bank of Iraq to withdraw $1 billion, which took hours to load up. Since Hussein was in charge of the country as a dictator, the clerks at the bank were forced to give him the money or be killed.
Saddam Hussein was found months later hiding in a hole and looking like someone coming down off of a bender. Inside the walls in his hideout, the United States found 65 percent of the loot, but the other 35 percent is still missing. Don’t bother trying to find it, as it’s assumed to have been used on weapons and things of that nature.
After reading this list, you’ve probably noticed that most of the robbers are either dead or in jail— so don’t try this at home.
#2 – London City Bonds – London, 1990 ($460 Million)
These days, there is a reason why many valuable items are transported by an armored car instead of some old guy, and this is the reason. A 58 year old man was responsible for carrying a briefcase full of bonds to a bank. During his merry stroll, the man was robbed at knife-point and had the briefcase stolen.
The thief was in for a very pleasant surprise when he found $460 million worth of bearer bonds inside the briefcase. The thing about these bonds, is that whoever has them in their possession is the “rightful” owner and they can be spent like regular currency. The thief was a part of a gang who got shot to death before police found him. Almost all of the bonds were recovered. The messenger dodged a bullet that the thief didn’t that day.
#3 – Boston Museum – Boston, 1990 ($300 Million)
There was a movie released earlier this year called “Let’s Be Cops”, where two men pretended to be police officers. What they did was tame compared to what two men in Boston did in the early 1990’s. Interestingly enough, these criminals didn’t use a single weapon to pull off the heist.
The two men dressed up as police officers convinced the security detail at the Boston museum that they were responding to a call from inside the building. The security guards were then handcuffed and forced to watch the two steal hundreds of millions in valuable art for the next hour and a half. Are you starting to notice a trend among inept or shady security guards on this list?
#4 – Baghdad Bank – Iraq, 2007 ($282 Million)
This robbery happened pretty recently, but didn’t make its way around the news scene. It was a very suspicious crime. Three guards who were working overnight at the bank apparently couldn’t be trusted. They ended up hiring Iraqi militants to help them rob $282 million and get them out of the country.
Nobody involved in this case has been caught, so it remains open. Even stranger is that all of the money in the bank was in American currency. There should probably be a little more investigation going on into this crime, as well as future background checks on new employees in the Baghdad Bank.
#5 – Schiphol Airport – Amsterdam, 2005 ($118 Million)
Have you have ever seen a sitcom where people beat workers up and steal their uniforms to gain entry into a building? That is exactly what two men did at this Netherlands airport. What could possibly be at an airport that is so valuable other than the airplanes themselves? How about an airplane full of uncut diamonds.
The two men pretended they were employees of the KLM airline in the Netherlands, and hijacked the truck that was transporting the diamonds at the airport. Airport security is nothing to mess around with, so the men were eventually caught thanks to cameras everywhere. They were pretty close to pulling it off, but no cigar here!
#6 – Harry Winston – Paris, 2008 ($108 Million)
Harry Winston was not the name of the robber (although it seems like a good robber name), but rather the jewelry store that got boosted for millions. Four men with guns dressed up like women in hopes to not draw attention to themselves. Surprisingly, more people took a second look at them.
The store was closed at the time, so there were no hostages to be taken except for the workers. There were also no security guards at this upscale store for some odd reason, so the robbers had it made. Dozens tried to rob this store in the past, but were arrested, while these four cleaned out the back.
#7 – Antwerp World Diamond Centre – Belgium, 2003 ($100+ Million)
Antwerp, Belgium is the uncut diamond capital of the world. There were four men involved in this huge heist. The only reason they couldn’t get all of the diamonds they wanted was because they couldn’t carry any more! Even better executed than the heist, was the plan on how to do it.
The leader of this little operation actually rented a nearby office space and posed as a diamond salesman himself. He got in good with the heads of the Antwerp World Diamond Centre and used his knowledge of the building to break in. He was caught, but the diamonds are still at large, and it’s estimated that they are worth $100 million. If you can find them, you should probably turn them in.
#8 – Knightsbridge Safe Deposit Centre – London, 1987 ($94.4 Million)
Valerio Viccei was a career robber, which isn’t something you end up going to college for— but Viccei was pretty darn good at it. When Viccei was wanted by the Italian police for 50 charges in the early 1980’s, he packed up and moved to get away from the heat, and continued his career in the United Kingdom.
Viccei didn’t pull off a very elaborate heist, but he still got the job done. Viccei told Knightsbridge Safe Deposit Centre that he wanted a deposit box, and bum-rushed the guard when he took him to the vault. Viccei’s hired cronies then came in and put a closed sign on the bank’s door, where they went on to plunder all of the safe deposit boxes. Viccei probably would have gotten away with it, had he not forgotten his Ferrari back in England. Viccei moved to Latin America after the robbery, but came back to get the car and was promptly arrested. He got to leave jail for one day, and ended up dying in a gunfight with police.
#9 – The British Bank Of The Middle East – Lebanon, 1976 ($40 Million)
Before Al Qaeda, one of the bigger terrorist groups in the world was known as PLO in the Palestine region. After they started up a war, they needed to buy supplies— but didn’t quite have enough money. That’s when they targeted the British, since they weren’t too fond of them in the first place.
Inside of The British Bank Of The Middle East was an enormous amount of valuable items, including gold and stocks. It would seem strange now to actually steal physical stocks of a company, since most trading is done online, but in the 1970’s stocks were done differently. The heist wasn’t a quick in and out, and actually took a full two days to pull off. The locksmith who helped get the robbers into the bank probably got a nice payday, but he probably didn’t get many locksmithing jobs after that, though.
#10 – United California Bank – California, 1972 ($30 Million)
Seven guys from Ohio had a big dream about the west coast. They packed up and headed to Laguna Niguel, California, where they targeted a branch of the United California Bank. The FBI was understandably fuming over this and launched a large private investigation. The result of their sleuthing was an apprehension of the ringleader, Amil Dinsio.
Nobody knows exactly how much the men stole, thanks in large part to a lack of computers back then. Deposit boxes were taken from the back of the bank and United California Bank could only give an estimate as to what was taken. These days, you better believe banks know exactly what you have in their buildings at all times.