How many of us have heard about a daring robbery on the news and thought: ‘I wonder if I could ever do that?’ Most of us have dreamed about it, truth be told, but sensibly decided not to act out those silly fantasies. In all honesty, the vast majority of those who commit robberies get caught, but amazing as it might seem, those who carry out the biggest and most audacious raids seem to get away with it far more often.
1. Baghdad Bank, robbed in 2003
The most incredible robbery of all time took place in Baghdad the day before the US began bombing the city prior to the invasion of 2003. Saddam Hussein was determined to rescue as much as he could for himself and his family, ignoring everyone else. He gave his son Qusay a note for $950 million, which Qusay then proceeded to take in cash form from the bank vaults and load into trucks. The bank manager confirmed that over a billion dollars was removed that day. Whilst much of it was recovered from the walls in Saddam’s palace, both Saddam and son Qusay are now no more, and so have taken to their graves the secret of $350 million that to this day is still unaccounted for. The biggest bank job of all time, and the perpetrators got away with it.
2. Luckiest mugger on Earth, 1990
Next we have the luckiest mugger of all time. He happened to pick on John Goddard, a 58-year-old messenger working for the broker, Sheppards, mugging him for his briefcase on a quiet London street in 1900. Inside that fateful briefcase was a staggering £292 million in bearer bonds and England treasury bills. The most amazing thing is that whoever stole these bonds got away with it. The mugger made off with 301 treasury bills, valued at around £1 million each. All but two of the bonds were eventually recovered, but yet again someone must be enjoying the spoils they got away with, a couple of million times over.
3. Vermeer painting worth £20 million, stolen in 1990
Art theft can also prove very profitable for the thieves; the biggest case of such a crime in history happened at the Gardner Museum in Boston. On March 19th, 1990, two men dressed as policemen bluffed their way past two green security guards, overpowered them, and handcuffed them in the basement. No visible weapons were shown, yet the robbers then spent an hour and a half picking out 12 works of art that even then were valued at $300 million. The thieves calmly pocketed the museum surveillance tapes and disappeared with their swag. To this day nothing has been recovered or found out, despite a $5 million reward being offered. Some more exceptional criminals who really did get away with it.
4. Schipol Airport: Scene of huge heist in 2005
It was February 2005 when two enterprising thieves hijacked a truck at Schiphol Airport, Amsterdam, which happened to be carrying uncut diamonds with an estimated value of $118 million! Even if incorrectly estimated as to value, this is still the biggest ever recorded diamond theft. The robbers had stolen two KLM trucks and uniforms to gain entry to the freight area of the airport. They simply drove up beside the target truck, then threatened staff with guns before jumping in and driving away. Companies that lost millions in the raid blamed the lack of airport security, which has since been massively improved. Still, $118 million was gone, lost forever, and yet again these big-time bandits got away with it.
5. Baghdad: Where the Dar El Salaam Bank was robbed in 2007
It is not just career criminals who see opportunity knocking. in July 2007, guards of a bank in Baghdad helped themselves overnight to $282 million in American currency and escaped into the city with one the largest hauls in history. It is believed that two or three guards were involved in robbing the Dar El Salaam Bank in the Sa’adun district in central Baghdad. The robbers are also thought to have taken $150,000 worth of Iraqi currency. The theft was discovered the following morning, when bank staff found the doors unlocked and the vaults empty. These enterprising thieves have never been caught and none of the money recovered. They must be living carefree lives of luxury.
Five of the most daring and lucrative robberies of all time, notable especially because those who committed the offenses are almost all living the high life in glorious anonymity, having got away scot free with their outrageous adventures. It’s difficult to know if we should condemn or praise them, because if we had been in their shoes, would we have behaved any differently? My special thanks to crimeandinvestigations.co.uk for the use of one of the images.