6 Biggest Bank Heists Ever Pulled Off
You’ve seen enough movies to know what it takes to pull off the perfect bank heist: a crack team of experts who are well versed in the fields of technology, disguise, and combat; a cunning criminal mastermind for a leader, and a whole lot of luck. But in real life, as actual criminals have shown us over and over again, all you really need is a total lack of moral compass. Here are some of the world’s biggest bank heists committed by some of history’s boldest criminals.
British Bank of Middle East Heist
While some criminals prefer a more subtle approach, the bank robbers who pulled off this heist at a British bank in Beirut, Lebanon decided to make a show of it. On January 20th, 1976, under the cover of the chaos of the Lebanese civil war, a small heavily armed militia aligned with Yasser Arafat’s Palestine Liberation Organization set off an explosion that blasted a hole in the shared wall between a Catholic Church and the British Bank of the Middle East.
The robbers then broke into the bank’s vaults and stole £25 million worth of gold bars, currency, jewels, and stocks, estimated to be worth around $143 million today. The money was thought to have been funneled back into the PLO and the perpetrators were never caught.
Dar El Salaam Bank Robbery
They say good help is hard to find, and this was certainly the case for the Dar El Salaam Bank in Baghdad, Iraq. In 2007, three guards who worked at the private bank pulled off an inside job and made away with more than a quarter of a billion dollars in the dead of night.
The $282 million dollar theft wasn’t discovered until the next morning when bank employees showed up for work only to find the vaults empty. The thieves fled the city and were never seen again, but we imagine that wherever they are, they are living quite comfortably.
The Great Train Robbery
This heist is so unbelievable; you’d think it was written for Hollywood. On August 8th, 1963, a British Royal Mail train left Glasgow for London; it had made that run every night for 125 years without incident, until that night when it was brought to a dead stop just before the Bridego Bridge in Buckinghamshire.
There a gang of 15 robbers, who had tampered with the signal lines, waited with guns and clubs drawn. The masked men boarded the train, separated the engine and the first two carriages and held four postal workers hostage while they loaded more than £2.6 million (around $68 million in today’s US dollars) into a truck.
Despite the ingenuity of their crime, the perpetrators weren’t brilliant enough to evade capture and within six months, 12 of the men were arrested and convicted. However, the three masterminds behind the crime, Bruce Reynolds, Charlie Wilson and Ronnie Biggs, remained at large. Reynolds was finally caught and sentenced in 1969 and served ten years in prison. Biggs was captured in 2001 and finally served time, but Mills died a free man in 1970. The incredible heist was portrayed on film in the 1979 motion picture, The Great Train Robbery.