Glorified for centuries with characters such as Robin Hood and Butch Cassidy, bank robbers are often portrayed as a more refined class of criminal and often romanticized in movies and novels- perhaps a bit brainier – certainly more intriguing. Here are the top 10 bank robbers of the 21st century:
10. The Agricultural Bank of China Robbery (6.7 Million, 2007)
Executed in China
The largest bank robbery in China’s history occurred in April of 2007 when a cash total of what was equivalent to $6.7 million was embezzled from the Agricultural Bank of China. The robbery was done by two vault managers with the help of two security guards from the branch. Purchasing tickets for the Chinese lottery with money they had stolen (with the intent of winning it and more back from gambling), one manager surprisingly managed it once, but the second manager failed at the second attempt. Soon thereafter other branch managers discovered the missing money and notified police and those involved were arrested. The heist also included 3 other accomplices: a landlord, a cab driver, and a car saleswoman. All accomplices were found and arrested and the two bank managers were later executed for their displays of bank robbing bravado.
9. The 2009 Bank of Ireland Robbery (9 million, 2009)
Millions of dollars scattered across Dublin
February 2009 at the Bank of Ireland in Dublin, the largest bank robbery in the Republic went down. Criminals included a junior bank employee who kidnapped another employee and forced him to remove $9 million in cash from the bank as his girlfriend and two others were held hostage. Seven people were later arrested, all believed to be members of a well-known Dublin gang. €1.8 million of the stolen cash was located the next day, scattered across Dublin, and in 2010 the man who claimed he was held hostage was also arrested on the suspicion that the robbery had been an inside job. A heist with a twist, earning a place higher on the list for almost $2 million more stolen and the extended rouse.
8. Northern Bank ($50 million, 2004)
Bank managers’ families held hostage by gunpoint in Ireland
Coming in at number 8 is the Northern Bank robbery in Belfast, Northern Ireland. It makes a huge leap from number 9 with a mere $9 million stolen against the monstrous sum of $50 million that was taken, mostly in pounds sterling. In December of 2004, the heist was carried out by a large, proficient group of thieves making it one of the biggest bank robberies in British history. On the night before the heist, two different groups of armed men disguised as police visited the homes of two officials of the Northern Bank. Once at the homes, they held the families hostage at gunpoint. The following day when officials were sent to work, some remained with the families being held hostage while others waited until the bank closed and the bank officials gave admittance to other members of the gangs. After the cash was stolen, it was transferred from three different vehicles and family members were shortly released before midnight. With only one person being convicted of money laundering, the investigation is still ongoing and the case remains unsolved.
7. The Graff Diamonds Robbery (65 million, 2009)
Robbers caught, diamonds never found
Buying its place as number 7, The Graff Diamonds robbery takes its place when the largest ever gems heist in British history commenced in August 2009. Nearly $65 million worth of jewelry and gems was stolen with the diamond theft being committed by two men in the guise of customers. Once in the store, the two men produced two handguns used to threaten staff. They made no attempt to conceal their faces from the premises’ CCTV cameras and police later discovered that they had used a professional make-up artist to alter their hair by using wigs and their skin tones and features using latex prosthetics. Later authorities discovered that the same make-up studio had helped disguise members of the gang that robbed the Securitas Depot in 2006 (on our list at number 5). The thieves left in a BMW vehicle and switched cars twice but stupidly left behind a cell phone in which the police were able to track them down. Up to 10 different suspects were arrested, but the gems and jewels have never been recovered.
6. Banco Central Burglary (70 million, 2005)
Brazilians dig in to a bank vault
Tunneling in at number 6 is the Banco Central Burglary that took place in 2005 in Fortaleza Brazil. The robbers of this cash heist are awarded an A+ for effort on our list. Considered to be among the biggest bank heists of all time, the burglary was the result of painstaking planning by a small gang of burglars who tunneled over 250 feet to the bank’s vault from a nearby property. The robbers used a landscaping business as a front that allowed them to move massive amounts of dirt and rock without looking suspicious. The tunnel was expertly constructed and had sophisticated lighting and even an air conditioning system. After three months of digging, the thieves finally broke into the vault and made off with what was equivalent to $70 million dollars. Since then, police have made a number of arrests in connection with the burglary and recovered roughly $9 million dollars of the haul, but the majority of the suspects are still at large.
5. The Kent Securitas Depot Robbery (92.5 Million, 2006)
Robber escapes to the West Indies with largest sum of money for four years of decadence
Jumping up in cost from $20 million from the Banco Central Burglary in Brazil was the bank robbery at The Securitas Depot in February 2006 in Kent, England. It makes its reputation as the largest cash heist in British crime history. At least 6 men abducted and threatened the family of the manager, tied up fourteen staff members, and stole what was equivalent to $92.5 million in bank notes. The manager of the depot (abducted while driving) was pulled over by what he thought was a police vehicle due to the blue lights behind the front grill. One of the criminals approached him in a police-style hat and handcuffed him and put him in their vehicle. He was taken to a farm in west Kent while at the same time the manager’s wife and eight-year-old son were being held hostage at their home. They too were then driven to the farm and the depot manager was forced by gunpoint to cooperate or else he and his family would be in danger. The main player of the heist wasn’t arrested until 2010, nearly 4 years later, after having lived it up in the West Indies with the largest sum of the stolen money.
4. The Antwerp Diamond Center (100 million, 2003)
Thieves bypass one of the most complex security systems in the world in the largest diamond heist ever
The Antwerp Diamond Center in Belgium houses 160 vaults in which diamond brokers leave their stones. In February of 2003, 123 of those vaults were emptied of $100 million worth of their contents by four people. It took two years to orchestrate the details with the criminals renting an office space in the building in order to analyze the alarm system and to learn how to bypass it. They stole keys to the vaults and made copies. On the day of the break in, they recorded over all of the security cameras. Antwerp police later caught them but the $100 million worth of diamonds and other gems has never been found. For bypassing some of the world’s most comprehensive security systems and for two years of meticulous planning, the Antwerp Diamond Heist ranks in at number 4.
3. Harry Winston Heist (108 Million, 2008)
Two men in Paris dressed in drag make off with diamonds
One of the most downright brazen robberies in recent memory was the Harry Winston Heist. It went down in 2008 when a group of four men stormed into one of Paris’s most exclusive jewelry stores and made off with $108 million in diamonds. The men were disguised as women and armed with a .357 Magnum and a hand grenade. They quickly herded the employees and customers into a corner and started breaking open display cases. After filling a suitcase with precious stones, they made their escape. No one from this robbery has ever been arrested with police suspecting that the robbers– whom they’ve nicknamed “The Pink Panthers”– are a part of a larger criminal organization of Yugoslavians that may have been responsible for a number of other high profile jewelry heists. In the meantime, a $1 million dollar reward is still up for grabs for any information leading to the arrest of the robbers.
2. Sumitomo Bank in London Heist ($300 Million, 2007)
Expert hackers prove high-tech gadgetry isn’t all it takes to rob a bank and fail
Considered one of the biggest in Britain’s history at $300 million, this heist took place at the Sumitomo Bank in London in September of 2007, but failed stupidly when experienced hackers made simple mistakes in the transfer form not being familiar with the SWIFT system for transferring money internationally. After 23 unsuccessful attempts during the course of two days to wire the money, the fiasco unraveled revealing 2 Belgium men and the security chief of the bank as the culprits. Chief of the bank, Kevin O’ Donoghue, 34, later explained that he had agreed to the heist after the master plan had already been formulated and his family was threatened. The plan almost worked after hackers used a USB memory stick to install “key-logger” software on worker’s computers to which they later downloaded user names and passwords from both private and business accounts of the bank. After attempting various money transfers, all of which failed, the trio was tracked down and prosecuted.
1. Central Bank of Iraq ($1 billion, 2003)
The lowest of the low: Saddam Hussein’s hands caught deep in the coffer
The most shocking bank robbery of the 21st century based on the amount stolen and the complete brainless effort that it takes for a dictator to drain his own country’s bank accounts. In March 2003, Saddam Hussein stole nearly $1 billion from the Central Bank of Iraq before the US began bombing in Baghdad. This is considered the largest bank heist in history with approximately $650 million later found hidden in walls in Saddam Hussein’s palace by US troops. It is believed that this was the bulk of the stolen money. Also, in March a hand-written note surfaced, signed by Saddam, ordering $920 million to be withdrawn and given to his son Qusay. Bank officials state that Qusay and another unidentified man oversaw the cash, boxes of $100 bills, being loaded into trucks during a five-hour operation. Qusay was later killed by US troops in a firefight.