There are a lot of jewelry heist movies, and one of these excellent films might even be your favorite. There is something extra special in watching a handsome thief with a brilliantly planned and executed crime successfully escape with the loot while making a fool out of the cops the entire time. However, these heists don’t just happen in the movies. Real life diamond thieves may not look as good as the ones in the movies, but the plans they come up with compete or even surpass a Hollywood style film in both innovation and thoroughness.
Though you might be tempted by the ease with which these infamous criminals pulled off their heists, these criminals are more often than not caught and face severe punishments, including enormous fines and years in prison for their crimes. These types of crimes are not region specific either! There are some places known for certain crimes, more than others, but that doesn’t make them any less severe.
Please don’t think that I’m endorsing these criminal geniuses as people to emulate or copy; if you want to acquire high-quality watches, jewelry, and other items of great value, stick with legal means, and work with a highly regarded vendor instead.
If you’re just here to read about some amazing stories involving big dollar heists, you’ve come to the right place. Here are some out of this world diamond heists that happened in real life:
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2002: Netherlands’ Museum of Science – $13M
A science museum is not the first place you’d think of when planning a jewelry heist. However, in 2002, The museum in Hague, Netherlands held a diamond exhibition. The heist that took place there is one of the most mysterious crimes in history. Police are still not sure about how the criminals got away with jewelry and diamonds estimated at more than $13 million, which included bracelets, luxurious watches, and several portions of royal collections.
The burglary took place on one weekend, with the criminals breaking a window to enter the museum, but without alerting the guards or being caught on surveillance cameras. They accessed 6 tightly locked cabinets inside the main jewelry room and escaped unnoticed. The heist was only detected the following Tuesday since the museum regularly closed on Mondays and security did not seem to suspect anything unusual.
You would think that people would have enough respect for the museum and its property that they wouldn’t commit such heinous crimes. Maybe if they knew the history behind these watches and other priceless jewelry pieces, they’d think twice before stealing precious pieces of history.
2008: Italy’s Damiani Jewelry Showroom – $25M
This heist is a good example of poorly trained police officers. A woman living very close to the Damiani Jewelry Showroom located in Milan, Italy, called the authorities to complain about a peculiar and unusual noise. But the police concluded that it came from a nearby building under construction, and disregarded the woman’s complaints. In reality, a band of thieves spent most of their mornings digging a hole from the woman’s basement into the showroom’s separate basement. They gained access one February morning in 2008 and waited for the showroom to close, then tied up the remaining guards and staff. They forced the manager to open the showroom’s vault which led to the thieves making off with shiny diamonds of different sizes worth $25M. Thankfully, they were later caught, and the good they stole all recovered.
2007: Antwerp’s ABN Amro Bank – $29M
In 2006, an old man named Carlos Hector Flomenbaum started visiting ABN Amro Bank, located in the distinguished diamond district of Antwerp. He befriended all the employees of the bank and told them he was an extremely rich man. He also gave them luxurious gifts and chocolates to prove that he was indeed rich. The unsuspecting staff was soon shocked by his clever gimmick. After all, would you suspect an old man, with an Argentinian passport, and a good American accent, who was very eager to make friends with the employees of an entire bank?
Ultimately, the old man acquired a key from the employees to the bank’s safe, and easily emptied five to six vaults of uncut diamonds amounting to $29M. Police later discovered that the passport that the old man showed to the bank’s staff was a stolen one.
2009: London’s Graff Diamonds – $65M
Regarded as the worst diamond heist British history, the crime was carried out by the notorious Pink Panther gang. The criminal group is believed to have been formed by retired ex-soldiers from Serbia. Two members of the gang entered the Graff Diamond store in London wearing dapper suits. Using concealed pistols, they stole over 40 of the shop’s most valuable items.
The thieves’ faces were caught on surveillance cameras, but it did not help authorities determine their identities. Police stated that the criminals hired an expert makeup artist before the robbery took place, who gave them prosthetics to hide their true identities. But the careless suspects left one of their cellphones inside their getaway car, which led to authorities tracing their identities as Craig Calderwood and Solomon Beyene.
2013: Cannes’ Carlton Hotel – $137M
This heist, which occurred at the Carlton International Hotel in Cannes, was regarded as one of the largest in recent history. What is particularly shocking about this crime is it was staged by just one suspect. A man who wore a cap and a bandana to cover his face walked right into the first floor of the hotel, where a jewelry exhibition was taking place while wielding a pistol. A few minutes later, he walked out with a bag that contained around $137 million worth of jewelry, which belonged to Lev Leviev, an Israeli billionaire.
Police believe the suspect is a man named Milan Poparic, who earlier made a fearless escape from state prison after members of his gang destroyed one of the gates of the Swiss prison, and shot at the authorities, which gave him enough time to run away.