Graff Diamonds, £40m, 2009
The Graff Diamonds heist remains Britain’s biggest jewellery raid and is among one of the smartest in history.
At 4.40pm on August 6, 2009, two sharply dressed men posing as customers entered the premises of Graff Diamonds in New Bond Street, London and stole jewellery worth nearly £40 million.
They used a professional make-up artist to disguise their appearances and a series of getaway cars to escape across the capital.
The robbers were caught shortly after police searched one of the getaway cars abandoned by the robbers. A pay-as-you go mobile phone was discovered that robbers Aman Kassaye and Craig Calderwood left in the car after ramming into a black cab.
After the collision, in their haste to transfer to a second vehicle, the robbers forgot the mobile phone that was wedged between the driver’s seat and the handbrake. Anonymous numbers stored on the mobile phone quickly allowed police to discover the identity of the robber.
Banco Central, £55m, 2005
Considered to be one of the world’s largest ever heists, the Banco Central burglary was carried out by a small gang who tunneled 250 feet into the bank’s vault.
On Saturday, August 6 of 2005, a gang of burglars tunnelled into the bank and removed five containers of 50-notes.
They rented out a nearby property and disguised it as a landscape business, which allowed them to move large amounts of dirt and rock without suspicion.
The tunnel took three months to construct and contained a sophisticated lighting system and even air conditioning.
The money was uninsured, a bank spokesperson stating that the risks were too small to justify the insurance premiums.
The burglars managed to evade or disable the bank’s internal alarms and sensors, and the burglary remained undiscovered until the bank opened for business the following Monday.
Hatton Garden, £14m, 2015
While smaller in scale than other heists on the list, the Hatton Garden robbery had all the ingredients of an old-school criminal caper.
The burglars worked through the four-day weekend of the Easter Bank Holiday, when many of the nearby businesses (many of them also connected with Hatton Garden’s jewellery trade) were closed.
There was no externally visible sign of a forced entry to the premises. It was reported that the burglars had entered the premises through a lift shaft, then drilled through the 50-centimetre (20-inch) thick vault walls with a Hilti DD350 industrial power drill.
The daring feat captured the public’s imagination, tapping into a romanticised view of a traditional bank heist.
The case received even greater attention when it was revealed it had been orchestrated by four pensioners.
The robbery was later turned into a film starring Matthew Goode and Joely Richardson.
Central Bank of Iraq, £620m, 2003
This is considered the largest bank heist in history and one of the most contentious. In March 2003, just days before the US invasion of Iraq, the country’s dictator Saddam Hussein siphoned nearly $1bn from the Central Bank.
In a hand-written note, discovered a few years later, the Iraqi president had ordered the bank to give $920m (£560m at the time) and $100m (£60m) worth of euros to his son Qusay. Bank officials said Qusay personally oversaw the boxes of $100 bills loaded into trucks during a five-hour operation.
Approximately $650m, possibly part of the hoard, was later found hidden in the walls his palace. Qusay was killed by US troops in a firefight in July 2003 and less than half of the money was ever recovered.
Source: The Week