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Most Famous Diamond Heists

By Janette

Marketeer and social media expert who just "happens" to speak Chinese fluently. Moved to the capital one year ago and shares her Amsterdam discoveries with you.

June 24, 2020

They are a beloved subject for movies: diamond heists. Ocean’s Eight, Ocean’s Thirteen, and The Bank Job are just a few of the movies that show an impressive diamond robbery. But they must be based on some kind of truth, right? They are. We have gathered three of the most famous diamond heists. One even more valuable than the other.

Antwerp Diamond Heist

Antwerp Diamond Heist

Let’s start with the biggest diamond heist of them all: the Antwerp Diamond Heist. Its reputation precedes it, as this heist is known as the heist of the century – a near-perfect crime.

treet in diamond district Antwerp

  • Date: February 15 – 16, 2003
  • Missing: Diamonds, gold, and jewelry
  • Participants: Leonardo Notabartolo
  • Sentence: 10 years imprisonment

Millions of dollars

On a Monday morning in 2003, concierge Jorge Dias De Souza made his way two levels beneath the Antwerp World Diamond Centre. What he discovered? The lights on, the vault and safe deposit boxes wide open, and millions of dollars’ worth of content scattered among the floor. Missing? Approximately $100 million worth of diamonds, gold, silver, and other valuable types of jewelry.

Security Antwerp Diamond Heist

Security

But how was it able to steal from one of the world’s most fortified businesses? Entry to the Centre’s vault required a building access card, a two-story descent underground to a guard-controlled gate, and both a key and one of 100 million (!) possible combinations. If someone would somehow manage to enter the vault unauthorized, he or she would be detected by a magnetic seal on the door and a motion, infrared and light detector. Even entering through a tunnel wouldn’t be possible, as the person would be detected by seismic sensors. If this isn’t secure enough already, there is a police station located 200 feet from the building. Any thief would be captured within minutes! Yet somehow, the thief of the notorious Antwerp Diamond Heist defeated all measures.

Insurance fraud

The thief, Leonardo Notabartolo, claimed afterwards that a diamond merchant hired him for the heist. He claims that he and his team stole around $20 million worth of diamonds, gold, and other valuables and that the robbery was part of insurance fraud.

Schiphol Airport Diamond Heist

Schiphol Airport Diamond Heist

Our neighbors aren’t the only ones who got robbed. On home soil, at Schiphol Airport, a diamond heist happened in the cargo terminal. After the Antwerp Diamond Heist, this is one of the largest diamond robberies ever.

Schiphol Airport Diamond Heist

  • Date: February 25, 2005
  • Missing: Diamonds and other gemstones
  • Participants: Three men
  • Sentence: 7 years imprisonment

Armed hijack

To ensure airside access, the robbers of the Schiphol Airport Diamond Heist stole a KLM van. The armed robbers were disguised as KLM employees as well. They hijacked a cargo vehicle filled with diamonds and gemstones, with a value exceeding 75 million euros in total. The goods were initially planned for a flight headed to the Belgian port of Antwerp. After the hijack, they used the same van to escape the scene.

Undercover investigation

After a year-long undercover investigation, seven suspects were arrested in January 2017. Due to a lucky break involving a radio intercept, they found the robbers in both Amsterdam and Valencia in Spain. A police officer involved in a separate investigation overheard the heist being discussed during an intercepted telephone conversation. The gang got up to 7 years in prison.

London

Hatton Garden Heist

If you think diamond heists can only be pulled off by the young ones, you need to think again. In 2015 a group of retired men was responsible for what is called the greatest heist in British history. Scene of the crime? Hatton Garden, London’s diamond district.

Hatton Garden Heist 

  • Date: April 2, 2015
  • Missing: Diamond jewelry, cash, and other valuables
  • Participants: Seven men
  • Sentence: Up to 7 years imprisonment

The burglars

What to do when you’re retired? A lot of people take up a new hobby such as gardening or painting – yet this wasn’t the case for Brian Reader. At age 76, Reader took up reading books such as The Diamond Underworld and diamond industry magazines. Not because of his interest to buy some, but to acquire them during the perfect heist. To commit this heist, he needed a strong and experienced team: one for drilling, one for electrics, and some as a lookout. If the idea of some retired old men trying to commit the biggest heist of the century isn’t amazing enough, they went by some pretty cool nicknames as well. Just like in the movies, they were called: Mr. Ginger, Mr. Strong, Mr. Montana, The Gent, The Tall Man, and The Old Man.

Movie worthy

The heist was subject to as many as three movies:

  • Hatton Garden: The Heist (2016)
  • The Hatton Garden Job (2017)
  • King of Thieves (2018)

Besides these movies, the heist was also featured in episode five of the TV series White Rabbit Project.

royal 201 diamond turning around

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