The Diamond Heist That Fooled The World

On an ordinary weekend in February 2003, a gang in Antwerp, Belgium pulled off one of the most baffling and brilliant heists of all time.

This guy:

Leonardo Notarbartolo had rented a cheap office in the diamond centre two years prior to the robbery, which included a safety deposit box and tenant ID card, giving him credibility in the area and 24-hour access to the lock boxes. For years he posed as just another client when all the while he was hard at work — creating blueprints, planning routes, studying employee schedules, security layouts etc.

Leonardo and his crew got past the security measures pretty easily. They used hairspray, electrical tape and even a Styrofoam box on a broom to block/spot the light, heat and motion sensors. The magnetic alarm had been disabled earlier on by one of the crew posing as a workman.

How did they get past the thick steel door? No one knows for sure — it was unlocked. The only theory is that someone had “forgotten” to lock it because there was no damage done and no way they happened to chance on the right combination. The gang grabbed the diamonds and even had time to steal the security footage. It was the perfect crime — except for one thing.

Notarbartolo was so buzzing off the score that he lost his focus and made a devastating error. After celebrating the heist with his crew, he mindlessly dumped bin bags with the stolen security footage, empty champagne bottles, SIM cards used to plan the heist and their tools used to crack open the vaults, in a path of forest off the E19 motorway.

A caretaker came across the bin bags by chance and turned them in to police. Inside one of the bags they found Notarbartolo’s half eaten salami sandwich and enough DNA evidence on it to link him to the crime. DNA on the champagne bottles led to three more arrests. The diamonds were never recovered.

No one is quite sure why Notarbartolo got so careless on the final part of his mission – it boggles the mind that he could have been so sloppy. He was eventually sentenced to 10 years in prison but has since been released on parole. The heist is a subject of the book Flawless: Inside the Largest Diamond Heist in History and Paramount Pictures have bought the rights to make it into a film — produced by JJ Abrams.

Should be huge.


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