The Great Heists: 6 of History’s Most Astonishing Robberies


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Bank heists and other large scale robberies have been occurring pretty much since the advent of money. History has documented innumerable big-money heists, where brazen thieves have selfishly disregarded the personal safety of innocent workers and bystanders for the chance at a big score.

Here are some of history’s most grand heists.

Securitas Depot Robbery (Great Britain)

As the largest cash robbery in the history of the United Kingdom, this 2006 heist occurred at a high-security cash storage depot in Kent, England. In order to minimize the chance of apprehension and getting themselves hurt, many thieves carry out their large scale cash heists in a non-violent manner during non-business hours. But not this heist.

During this robbery, the heavily armed perpetrators forcibly kidnapped the cash depot’s branch manager and his family, and bound 14 employees. Once inside the facility, they forced the manager to open up the secured cages where the cash was stored.

The amount of cash stolen was a whopping £53.1 million ($68 million). Most of the gang has been apprehended and sent to prison, but at least one of the crew remains at large spending his loot.

The Robbery of Banco Central (Brazil)

This mammoth heist began when the robbers rented a home in the city of Fortaleza, Brazil. Posing as a small company making artificial turf, the crew spent three months digging an enormous subterranean tunnel, which was the length of approximately two city blocks (656 feet).

The tunnel’s terminus? Underneath the bank’s vault.

Over a hot summer weekend in 2005, the bandits broke through the reinforced concrete into the vault, where they removed the equivalent of $65 million. Law enforcement believes that this heist was the biggest in the history of Brazil.


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Dunbar Armored Robbery (Los Angeles)

This $18.9 million armored truck heist was the largest robbery to have ever occurred in the United States. The robbery occurred in 1997, and was an inside job orchestrated by a former Dunbar employee. The perpetrator recruited five of his friends to pull off the robbery, which involved a Friday night raid of a Dunbar cash depot. In order to establish alibis, the men gathered at a house party prior to heading off for the heist.

Once they were at the cash storage facility, the men subdued the guards, and managed their way inside to where the cash was stored. The thieves busted into the vault area and broke the locks of the cages containing the cash.

The thieves loaded the cash into a U-Haul and easily escaped the scene of the crime. Although the bandits got away with the crime for a while, the men involved were eventually all arrested after investigators got a lead on the U-Haul rental. The renter was one of the perps, and he eventually cracked and confessed.

British Bank of The Middle East (Lebanon)

During Lebanon’s civil war, a group of bandits claiming ties to the Palestinian Liberation Organization stole over £25 million in gold bars, cash and jewels from the bank.  This 1976 heist occurred when the thieves stood inside a church and blasted through the wall of the adjoining British Bank of the Middle East.

Once inside the bank, a group of skilled locksmiths handled opening up the vault. The amount stolen would be a modern day equivalent of $32 million.

Iraq’s Central Bank (Iraq)

In 2003, the largest bank heist in history occurred in Baghdad, Iraq. Allegedly ordered by Saddam Hussein just prior to the invasion by the United States, the thieves walked away with $920 million.

Many in law enforcement believe that Hussein instructed his son, Qusay, and a close personal adviser to steal the approximately $1 billion in cash from Iraq’s Central Bank. Much of the cash is still missing, but around $650 million was recovered from Hussein’s palace during an international raid.

Knightsbridge Vault (England)

In 1987, over £60 million was stolen at the Knightsbridge Safe Deposit Centre by notorious bank robber, and international playboy, Valerico Viccei. Implicated in over 50 other bank robberies, Viccei pulled this monumental heist off with ease.

Essentially, Viccei and his accomplices accomplished the large scale robbery during business hours, and were able to walk out unscathed with close to what would be now around $80 million. After fleeing to South America and enjoying years of freedom, Viccei was arrested on a trip back to England.

Why did he come back to England? He needed to retrieve and arrange the shipment of his Ferrari.

Many of these larger than life heists have inspired movies and books. Can you think of any of films or novels that were inspired by some of history’s greatest heists?


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About jchasenovelist

Published thriller author, criminologist, and blogger.
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