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Top 10 Biggest Heists Ever Pulled Off

Updated on March 10, 2016
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10. Nihon Shintaku Ginko Bank

When you’re disguised as a police officer, you are able to get away with quite a bit, such as pulling over a bank truck under suspicion of a bomb being planted underneath. The truck pulled over on December 10th, 1968 was carrying four passengers and approximately $817,000 when the local motorcycle cop pulled them over. The four passengers evacuated the truck and the officer went to work inspecting for the bomb. In a terrifying moment, the undercarriage of the vehicle started to smoke and flames could be seen, sending the passengers running. Privy to the knowledge that the display was just a flare, the fake officer hopped in the van and drove off with the money. Despite the massive investigation and some 110,000 suspects were questioned, no one was convicted for the crime.

9. Credit Lyonnais

Nobody ever said it was easy work to steal upwards of $34 million, but a group known as “The Termites” show what many would do whatever it takes for a an impressive take. Via a neighboring cellar, The Termites burrowed a tunnel right to the walls of a Credit Lyonnais branch in Paris, France, spending several days after to weaken the nearly 3 inch or 7.5 centimeter thick wall with pickaxes and a flamethrower. Once inside the bank, which was undergoing its own renovations, the group tied up a guard and proceeded to break into 200 safes. To cover their tracks and ensure they could enjoy the large sum, the group started a fire to trigger the sprinklers and flood out any evidence.

8. British Bank of the Middle East Beirut Branch

January 20th, 1976 proved a frustrating day for the Beirut branch of the British Bank of the Middle East, when a group connected to Yasser Arafat’s Palestine Liberation Organization used the cover of the ongoing civil war for their profit. An estimated $50 million worth of gold bars, currency, stocks, and jewels were lifted from the bank, but it’s tough to determine if that’s even the worst of the crime. To gain access to the bank, the group forced their way through via a wall the bank shared with a Catholic church, blowing the wall up under the Almighty’s watchful eye. Where the payload wound up is questionable, though it’s known to now be about three times its original worth in 1976.

7. Banco Itau

A calm night in August of 2011 erupted into a quiet chaos when 12 men disguised as furnishing workers entered the Banco Itau branch located on Paulista Avenue in São Paulo, Brazil, and brandished firearms. The overnight heist ended with no injuries, with the only two present guards being disarmed without a shot being fired, and the loss of over $58 million in valuables taken from Banco Itau’s wealthy clients. Despite the extravagant amounts held within the 170 different strongboxes that were broken into, few of the valuables were actually insured and tracing them proved nearly impossible. Despite security footage being recovered, there have been no arrests made in connection with the Banco Itau heist.

6. Banco Central at Fortaleza

It took a gang of 10 to 20 burglars to lift approximately $71 million from the Banco Central in Fortaleza, Brazil. While the heist itself was impressive, with the team removing five containers of 50-real notes without triggering an alarm, the planning that went into it was even more remarkable. Three months prior to the actual heist, a commercial property located at the center of the city was rented, giving the criminals unexpected access to the bank. They burrowed a 256 feet or 78 meter tunnel, complete with lighting and air circulation, to just outside the bank’s steel-reinforced concrete wall. When it was time to move, they broke through the wall and went to work. The aftermath of the robbery is laden with kidnappings, murders, and arrests of some of the involved parties, with only approximately $6 million recovered.

5. Harry Winston

It wasn’t the cleanest heist ever, but it didn’t need to be; not to make off with more than $105 million in emeralds, rubies, and other highly valuable gems. The three robbers, dressed in ridiculous but effective garb that consisted of blond tresses, scarves, and sunglasses, were buzzed into the Harry Winston on Avenue Montaigne in Paris, France, just before the store’s closing time. With as much finesse as a bull, the trio brandished a .357 magnum and a hand grenade and started their handy work, smashing display cases in a quick 15 minutes to not give police enough time to respond. Just as quick as they strolled in, the thieves left, hopping in a getaway car with their riches. Despite their more intrusive and loud method, the trio have yet to be successfully identified.

4. Schiphol Airport

You may not expect a diamond heist to take place at an airport, but the Amsterdam Airport Schiphol in Schiphol, Netherlands, was victim of such a crime in February of 2005. The would-be thieves utilized a stolen Royal Dutch Airline van to gain access to the cargo terminal. In their KLM disguises, the robbers drove up to a truck carrying the payload of diamonds and, in the least subtle manner ever, forced the drivers out at gunpoint and hijacked the truck. The estimated value of the stolen goods tops out around $118 million, proving that a hefty payday can be found in just about any environment.

3. Carlton Intercontinental Hotel Jewel Heist

The Carlton Intercontinental Hotel is a luxury hotel found on the French Riviera in Cannes that houses a host of prestigious guests. On July 28th, 2013, it was also home to the Lev Avnerovich Leviev jewelry display, and one gutsy individual sought to take advantage of the precious display. Guarded with unarmed security, the displayed valuables were easily lifted from an armed thief who’s identity was covered by no more than a baseball cap and scarf. It was just one man, so he couldn’t have made off with too much, right? Just a measly $143 million in jewels is all. Not impressed yet? Well, the man did it in roughly 30 seconds, how about them apples? Despite a manhunt and a $1.3 million reward, the thief has yet to be caught.

2. Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

The city of Boston in Massachusetts was lost in joy over St. Patrick’s Day, to the point where two thieves were able to dress as Boston police officers, stroll into the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, and make off with 13 great works of art. Included in the baker’s dozen was a Rembrandt, Manet, and a collection of Degas, all valued around $500 million in total. It was 1990 when the crime was committed and, despite the simplicity of it, the pair didn’t seem to leave behind a clue as to their identity and are still at large today.

1. The Russian Hacker Ring

Traditionally, we picture heists as exciting events with guns, speeding getaway cars, and bags of money, but that’s not always the case. A ring of Russian hackers has committed what seems like the perfect heist right from their computers. From over 100 banks in 30 different countries, the group has stolen around $1 billion, siphoning no more than $10 million at a time before moving onto a different bank to make it more difficult to detect. Among the countries hit are Russian, the United States, Germany, China, and Ukraine, with expansion expected in the Middle East, Africa, and Europe. As of August, 2015, the hackers are still not identified.

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