10 Most Incredible Bank Heists in History

For criminals, there are no crimes perhaps more enticing than bank robbery.  The fame, notoriety, and financial rewards of robbing a bank are enough to entice hackers, gunmen and even politicians into attempting to rob a bank.  Robberies are committed left and right, usually for small amounts of money, however, some robbers choose to go-big-or-go-home.

We’ve got the low-down on the 10 most incredible bank heists in history.  From the ingeniously brilliant to the just plain dumb, these robbers know how to rob a bank.  Unfortunately for them, the robbers have almost always been brought to justice, although most of the money has never been recovered.

1. Saddam Hussein Steals $1 Billion from the Iraq Central Bank in 2003

Just before the United States declared war on Iraq, initiating the second Gulf War, Saddam Hussein pulled off the biggest bank heist in history, by having his son steal $1 billion from the Iraqi central Bank. The BBC headline read as follows: “Saddam Hussein ordered his son to take about $1bn in cash from the Iraqi Central Bank just hours before the first bombs fell on Baghdad, the United States has said.”

US officials say they have no idea where the money is now, but a spokesman for George W President Bush said it should come as no surprise that Iraq’s leaders would try to take what he called their “ill-gotten loot” out of the country.

The New York Times said the removal of the funds would amount to one of the largest bank robberies in history – but added that since Saddam Hussein was nearly an absolute ruler, the action might not have broken any laws.

Ironically, because Saddam was a despot, his robbery of the bank may not have technically violated any Iraqi laws.

Source: BBC
2. More Trouble In Iraq as Bank Guards Steal $300 Million in 2007

Proving the outright success of democracy, this time, the ruler didn’t steal the money, instead, the lowly bank guards made off with $300 million in funds from the Dar Es Salaam Bank in Baghdad.  Ironically, Iraq probably beefed up their security for banks after the previous heists, so instead, the security guards steal the money this time around.

According to Reuters:

Police said the thieves were three guards who worked at the private Dar Es Salaam bank in Baghdad’s Karrada district.

They said that when bank employees arrived for work on Wednesday they found the front door open and the money gone. The guards, who normally slept at the bank, had also disappeared, they said.

An official at the bank said about $300 million in U.S. dollars had been stolen, as well as 220 million Iraqi dinars ($176,000). He declined to give further details.

Source: Reuters
3. Kent Securitas Depot Robbery of $92.5 Million in 2006

Trouble brewing in the United Kingdom, as robbers stole $92.5 million from the Kent Securitas Depot.

The Kent Securitas robbery was the largest cash robbery in UK history, which took place when the manager of the depot was abducted.  When he pulled over for an unmarked police vehicle with blue flashing lights, a man approached the vehicle and made the manager enter the police car.  He was then handcuffed by other gang members in the car.  The robbers then proceeded to hold the manager’s wife and son hostage, as the gang members then proceeded to rob the depot for the equivalent of $92.5 million.

According to the BBC:

Raiders involved in Britain’s biggest cash robbery got away with £53,116,760 from the Securitas depot in Tonbridge, Kent Police have revealed.  Assistant Chief Constable Adrian Leppard said a further five men had been arrested in addition to the six people released on bail last week.  He said four of them were still being questioned, with officers granted an extra 26 hours to hold two of them.
A fifth man arrested on Sunday was released on bail.

Source: BBC
4. Knightsbridge Security Deposit Robbery of $98 Million, 1987

Arguably the third largest heist in history, a robbery masterminded by Valerio Viccei made off with $98 million in 1987, the equivalent of almost $200 million in modern currency rates.  After deciding the heat was too hot in Italy, where he was wanted for 50 armed robberies, Valerio took his Baretta to England to pull of this massive heist.  Requesting to rent a safe deposit box, the bank manager took them down into the vault, the robbers subdued the manager and security guards as they proceeded to steal all the money.

Unfortunately for Viccei, a bloody fingerprint from the crime scene was traced back to him, and surveillance of him resulted in the arrest of Viccei and his accomplices.

Source: Wikipedia
5. The Reichsbank Robbery in Berlin

This one is a bit subjective, as the ‘robbery’ of the Reichsbank holds the Guinness World Record for the largest robbery in history, of over $3 billion.  The bank was looted as Germany collapsed at the end of the Second World War. The amount of gold taken from Germany’s Reichsbank then was estimated at £2.5bn at 1984 prices.

However, many scholars have pointed out the difficulty in classifying this robbery, as a majority of the stolen money was in foreign bonds, and thus it was based largely on testimony as to the amounts in the bank.  Nevertheless, this robbery goes down as one of the craziest in history.
6. Banco Central burglary at Fortaleza, 2005

In this daring robbery that seems straight out of a Sherlock Holmes mystery, burglars tunneled into the Banco Central in Fortaleza, Brazil, to steal $164 million Brazilian reals (the current equivalent of $94 million USD).  By purchasing and renovating a house, and doing some gardening work, they were able to disguise their nearly 100 meter tunnel that took nearly 3 months to create.

They were able to make off with the money and authorities have only managed to recover $9 million, with the rest unaccounted for.  Many suspects have been arrested in connection with this robbery, and the alleged mastermind was murdered in 2005.  According to reports, 18 perpetrators are still at large.

Source: Times Online
7. The Great Train Robbery of 1963

The Great Train Robbery of 1963 was a robbery of a modern equivalent to $74 million that was carried out by a gang of 15 robbers, led by Bruce Reynolds.  By sabotaging the signaling equipment for the railway, the robbers convinced the train to make an unexpected stop, before boarding the train and removing 124 sacks of money and valuables.  Ordinarily, this level of money would not have been present, but thanks to a bank holiday in Scotland, the total amount was £2.6 million.  Most of the money has not been recovered.

Source: BBC
8. Northern Bank Robbery of 2004

The Northern Bank robbery of 2004 was a cash robbery of the Northern Bank in Ireland.  A large group of robbers seized £26.5 million in pounds sterling.  The UK governments and Ireland police all claimed the robbery was perpetrated by the IRA, although this is denied by the IRA and their leadership.  What is known is that, by holding the families of bank officers as hostages, the robbers were able to masquerade as bank officials and make off with the money.  As of 2009, the case was still being prosecuted and new conspirators were being charged, as financial adviser Ted Cunningham was charged with laundering money that had stemmed from the robbery.

Source: Wikipedia

9. Brinks Mat Warehouse Robbery of 1983

The Brink’s-MAT robbery took place on November 26, 1983, when 6 robbers broke into the Brink’s-MAT warehouse.  Thinking they were going to steal a measly £3 million in cash, the robbers were rather surprised to find 3 tons of gold bullion, worth £26 million.  A lucky break for the robbers, they were able to make away with the money, however, the mastermind was caught after the security guard Anthony Black, who helped the robbers gain entrance, confessed to the crime and turned the mastermind, Robinson, in, along with gang leader Michael McAvoy.  The other four robbers remain at large, and a majority of the gold has never been recovered.

Source: BBC
10. Dunbar Armored Car Robbery of 1987

The Dunbar Armored Car robbery was a robbery perpetrated by Allen Pace, who ganged up with 5 childhood friends to steal $18.9 million in 1997.  Going uncaptured for several years, finally one of the accomplices made a fatal mistake, and was arrested, and promptly ratted out his accomplices.  While on the job, Pace examined the Dunbar Los Angeles armored car depot, making sure to time the security cameras.  Using his keys to enter the facility, the gang then waited in the cafeteria, ambushing each guard.  The gang proceeded to rush the vault, loading millions into a nearby u-haul truck.  The gang made away with the money and laundered it through legitimate businesses.  Unfortunately, Eugene Hill, one of the members, gave an associate a stack of money with the original cash straps.  This was quickly traced back to him.  The gang was then arrested, although only $9 million was ever recovered.

Source: St. Augustine

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