Ten Big Robberies Without any Human Casualties

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Always take a group photo of your crew before the heist

Admit it! You all have thought about the possibility of committing the perfect robbery, one that would make you dead rich. Most of you do not actually put such thoughts in practice; you just leave them in the realm of your imagination. However, some people have turned such daring thoughts (or maybe crazy thoughts) into action.

That’s right; this article aims at providing a list with some of the world’s most notorious robberies. Whether they are the biggest robberies in terms of the amount of money that was stolen, that is debatable. What is sure is that these are the most spectacular and ingenious robberies in history. Another interesting element is that nobody was killed in the committing of these heists.


Lufthansa Heist
1978: $5.8 Million

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Jimmy Burke, an associate of the notorious Lucchese mafia family, was the brain behind the Lufthansa robbery from 1978. It all started when the betting agent Martin Krugman informed Henry Hill, one of Burke’s friends, about a sum of money allegedly impossible to track.

The money entered the American territory by air and it represented the currency changed by American military men and tourists who were travelling in West Germany (former GFR). The money was stored in a safe located in the Kennedy airport. Louis Werner, an airport employee offered this information to Krugman because he owed $20,000 to Krugman for his betting services.

On December 11, at 03:12, a guard working at the Kennedy airport was hit in the head with a gun and disarmed but he did not lose consciousness. Two men with their faces covered ordered him to disable the alarm and once this had been done, they tied and gagged him.  The guard was still able to see a group of men, all armed with rifles or guns, entering the deposit terminal.  One of the robbers took the guard’s wallet and told him that they knew where his family lived and added that that they were ready to pay them a visit at anytime. The guard then nodded, agreeing to cooperate with the robbers.

Afterwards, the robbers used a special key which had been given to them by Werner and went through a long labyrinth of corridors to the place where all the other airport employees were. The robbers threaten to shoot them and forced John Murray, the senior deposit agent to call Rudi Eirich. Eirich was the only employee on duty that night who knew what the cipher was for opening the safe. He was lured in the cafeteria, threatened by gun and forced to open the safe. Later on, Eirich would tell the police that the robbers knew very well all the internal safety systems and were well informed about the silent opening procedure of the safe.

Once in the safe, the robbers found 40 money packages, took them and loaded them in a van while Eirich himself and all the other employees were tied and gagged. One of the robbers, thrilled by the robbery’s success, entered the room where the employees were held and informed the others that the money was ready for transport. However, this robber was careless and had forgotten to cover his face so that the employees were able to see how he looked like.

Before hitting the road, the robbers ordered the airport employees not to call the police before 04:30. When they left the time was 04:16. Indeed, the employees complied since they were all aware that the robbers knew who they were and could come after their families if they had been caught by police. The robbery lasted 64 minutes and the prey totaled $5 million in cash and another $875,000 in jewelry. At that time, that was the biggest robbery in American history.


Dunbar Armored
1997: $18.9 Million

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The Dunbar Armored robbery is the biggest idle money robbery in USA. It took place at the Dunbar Armored facility in LA, California in 1997 and the robbers left out with nearly $19 Million.

The robbery was orchestrated by Allen Pace, who was working for Dunber as a regional safety inspector. While employed at Dunbar he photographed and examined the company’s armoured car deposit. He recruited five childhood friends and on a Friday evening, on September 1997 he used his key to enter the institution. The man had analysed the surveillance cameras and understood how they could be avoided.

Once in the building, the robbers hid in the cafeteria and tied all the guards one by one. Pace knew that the safe was open on Fridays because of huge money transfer volumes. In just 30 minutes, the robbers loaded millions of dollars in a vehicle that was waiting for them. Pace knew exactly what were the bags containing the big bills and those with the non-consecutive bills.  He also knew where the surveillance camera recording tapes were and took them too.

The police figured immediately out that the hit was engineered by an inside man and they carefully searched Pace but they could not find any evidence connecting him to the robbery. The gang tried hard to hide their new treasure and washed the money in real estate businesses and other economic tricks. Yet, one of the robbers made a mistake when he offered someone a money wad with an original bind. The man immediately went to the police. The robber was soon caught and he revealed the names of all the others. Allen Pace was arrested and sentenced to 24 years in prison. Only $8 million were retrieved, the other $10 million are still missing.


The Brinks Mat Deposit
1983: $45 Million

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The Brinks Mat robbery took place on November 26, 1983, when six robbers broke into the deposit located in the Heathrow Airport.  The thieves initially thought that they were going to steal three million pounds in cash. When they entered the deposit they found 10 ton gold bars worth about 26 million pounds. The gang gained access to this gold mine with the help of a guard, Anthony Black, the brother-in-law of Brian Robinson, the brain behind the robbery.

Scotland Yard quickly discovered the family ties and Black confessed he had helped the robbers by giving them the main entry key and additional information about the safety system. Robinson and the gang leader, Michael McAvoy were both sentenced to 25 years in prison for armed robbery. Black was sentenced to six years in prison but he was released after having served just three. Prior to his jail sentence, McAvoy gave the prey to an associate, John Perry who took care to melt the gold bars and shaped them for selling.  Three tons of the stolen gold was never found again. It is said that all the people who are wearing gold jewelry bought from the UK are probably wearing the jewelry stolen from Brinks Mat.


The Northern Bank
2004: $50 Million

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The Northern Bank robbery took place at the bank’s headquarters, in Belfast, Northern Ireland. On December 20, a group of robbers stole $50 million in pounds. This is one of the biggest robberies in UK history. Both the police and the Irish and British governments pointed their finger at Provisional IRA. They, however, strongly refuted the allegation.

On December 19, 2004, armed men broke into the houses of two of the Northern Bank officials. The robbers were disguised in police men and threaten to kill the bankers’ families.  They then kidnapped some of the bankers’ relatives and made the bankers work at the bank as if nothing had happened.  After closing time, the bankers remained in the institution and allowed the robbers to enter the bank.  They went straight to the money deposit area where a large amount of money was stored ready to fuel ATMs for Christmas. The money was transferred in several vans, the group vanished and the kidnapped relatives were released.


Banco Central, Brazil
2005: $70 Million

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On August 6-7, 2005, a gang of robbers, allegedly Primeiro Comando da Capital dug a tunnel towards Banco Central in Fortaleza from where they stole $70 million. The robbers managed to keep the security system silent and nobody knew anything about the robbery until Monday, August 8, when the bank was open.

The money from the safe were to be examined and either destroyed or put back into circulation. The bills had not been sequentially stored, so they became practically impossible to track.  Three months before the robbery, the thieves rent a nearby house and dug a 78 meter tunnel right under the bank.

The robbers were smart enough to give the impression that the house they had rented was the headquarters for a landscape company which sold natural grass, artificial grass and plants. The neighbours had seen that large earth quantities were carried away in a van daily but they thought that was a normal activity for such a business. The tunnel was 70 cm wide and four meter deep. It was well built; the walls were reinforced and had its own lighting and air conditioning systems.

In the last week, robbers dug through a 1, 1 m thick steel reinforced concrete to get to the bank’s safe. The bills weighed about 3, 5 tons. On October 22, the body of the presumed operation head, Luis Fernando Ribeiro, 26 years old was found on secondary road near Rio de Janeiro. The man had handcuff marks on his wrists. Other 5 men were arrested on September 28 carrying $5.4 million and they admitted to having dug the tunnel. Authorities have only been able to get back $7 million; the other $63 million are still missing.


The Great Train Robbery
1963: $80 Million

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This is the name of the robbery which took place on August 8, 1963. The target was a royal post train and the prey amounted 2, 3 million pounds. The train was stopped on the Bridego railway bridge from Ledburn, near Mentmore, England using light signals. A gang made up of five men, led by a certain Bruce Reynolds got into the train and stole 2.3 million pounds in notes of one, five and ten pounds – in today’s money, that would be $80 million.

Although no fire arm was used, the train mechanic, Jack Mills was hit in the head with a crow bar but did not suffer any more injuries. Thirteen of the gang members were caught after police were able to identify them by their fingerprints. They were hiding at Leaderslade farm, near Oakley, Buckinhamshire. The robbers were judged and sentenced to prison. One of them managed to escape after 15 months in prison and moved to Melbourne, Australia and then to Rio de Janeiro to cover his tracks. Another robber escaped to Montreal, Canada and had lived there happily until he made a mistake and got caught by Scotland Yard.


Securitas Deposit of England
1963: $92.5 Million

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Securitas Deposit from England was robbed on February 22, 2006, between 01:00 and 02:15 a.m. This represents the biggest idle cash robbery in British history. At least six men kidnapped and threaten the director’s family, seized 14 employees and stole nearly $92.5 million in bills from the Crown Deposit for Liquidities Management from Vale Road, Tonbridge, Kent.

The Securitas director was stopped on the street while driving by men dressed in police officers and his son and wife were seized from their house. They were all taken to an abandoned farm and the director was forced to cooperate with the robbers under gunpoint. Then the victims and their aggressors got in a white van and drove to Securitas headquarters. There the robbers stole the money but it took another hour until the seized persons were able to alert the police. None of the persons threatened was harmed.


Knightsbridge Security Deposit Robbery
1987: $130 Million

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Knightsbridge Security Deposit was robbed on June 12, 1987 in Knightsbridge, part of City of Westminster, England. Two men entered the deposit that day claiming they wanted to rent a security case. Once they were led to the safe, they pulled out their guns and took control over the situation. Both the director and the guards were unable to react.

The robbers then put a sign on the door explaining the institution was temporarily closed that day and allowed their accomplices in. They broke several security cases and took a $66 million prey, which in today’s money is around $130-150 million. One of the guards managed to set himself free and pressed the alarm one hour after the robber had left the building.

The police were able to retrieve a fingerprint which allowed them to identify Valerio Viccei, an Italian man. The police trailed him for a while and then arrested him and some of his accomplice on August 1987.  They were then sent to court. Viccei later on wrote a book describing the whole event.


Boston Museum
1990: $300/500 Million

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On March 18, 1990, just a few hours after Saint Patrick Day celebrations had ended in Boston, two men dressed in police officers knocked at the service entry door of the Isabelle Stewart Gardner Museum. It was around 01:24. The institution’s rules strictly forbad that the doors be opened at night-time, but guards made an exception that night. Although the „police men” did not carry any guns they attacked the guards as soon as they entered the museum. The guards were then handcuffed and taken to the basement.

In less than 90 minutes, the robbers went up to the Dutch Chamber from the second floor and stole three Rembrandt paintings; one of these paintings represented the only marine landscape the painter has ever created. They cut it quickly off the frame and left behind pieces of threaded cloth. Vermeer’s „The Concert” and a Chinese cup were also stolen from the same chamber.

The robbers tried to stole another Rembrandt painting but they did not manage to do so eventually.  From the Short Gallery, the robbers took away five Degas drafts as well as the bronze vulture from a flag that belonged to Bonaparte’s troops. Sources said that 12 paintings worth $300 million had been stolen. Other sources stated that 13 paintings worth $500 million were stolen.

No matter the number of the stolen paintings, the breakage is huge and this is one of history’s biggest robberies.  The robbers have not been caught to this day because they destroyed the surveillance tapes and left no fingerprints behind. The works of art are forever lost. A five million reward is offered nowadays for any information leading to finding the paintings.


Iraqi Central Bank
2003: $900 Million

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On March 18, 2003, one day before the bombing of Bagdad started; nearly one billion dollars vanished in several stages out of Iraqi Central Bank. This is considered to be the biggest robbery in history. Later on, American soldiers discovered $650 million hidden in Saddam’s house walls. It appeared that money was part of the one billion dollars. However, no further information is available about the other $350 million.

Diyaa Habib al-Khayoun, general manager at the state-owned al—Rafidain bank said that $250 million and another 18 million Iraqi dinars, now totally valueless, were also stolen from the Central Bank in the same day. This time the robbers were professionals and had no connection to Saddam. In March 2003 Saddam sent a hand-written note demanding that $920 million in cash be withdrawn and given to Quassay, his son.

Central Bank officials said that Quassay was seen taking part at the money loading operation. The money came in boxes full of 100 dollar bills and was loaded in trucks. The whole loading operation took about five hours.