Diamond heists are intriguing. Compared to other crimes, they involve a higher level of prowess, more intricate planning and carefully refined skills which leaves many of them unsolved for decades. Below you will find 4 extraordinary diamond heists which have marked history.
1. November 26, 1983 in London, United Kingdom
A gunshot rang out and Brian Perry slumped lifeless to the ground. He and more than 20 other people died from what some people call the “Curse of Brinks-Mat”.
The curse began when Anthony Black a security guard for Brinks-Mat Security Company conspired with several other men to at a Brinks-Mat warehouse. The heist was simple. Anthony opened the door for his gang, they tied up the other security guards and loaded a van with $36 million dollars’ worth of diamonds, cash and gold bullion.
In the following months, the police arrested several of the men and recovered part of the gold. The curse then began to take effect. Over the next two decades many of were killed. Their murderers were never found and the diamonds, cash and almost $14 million dollars’ worth of gold were never recovered.
2. February 16, 2003 in Antwerp, Belgium
It was a cold Sunday morning. Snow crunched under the policemen’s feet as they hurried to the Antwerp World Diamond Centre. Inside ringing alarms and broken locks informed them that the Centre’s vault had been the scene of the century’s largest diamond heist.
Everything was normal in the months leading up to the heist. An Italian diamond broker rented an office on an upper floor at the Centre, but he seemed respectable. No one suspected that he was planning to outsmart the intricate security sensors and locks that protected the vault in the basement. From February 15-16th, he and several accomplices executed their plans flawlessly and made off with diamonds and other gems valued at more than $100 million dollars.
Authorities eventually uncovered DNA linking Leonardo Notarbartolo, the Italian diamond broker, to the heist, but his accomplices and the diamonds were never found.
3. March 5, 2004 in Tokyo, Japan
She was beautiful, well-dressed and she was just the type of woman that you would expect to wear diamonds – even the exquisite 116 diamond Comtesse de Vendôme necklace.
In reality, though, she was in Tokyo’s Le Supre-Diamant Couture de Maki jewellery boutique not to buy diamonds, but to memorize the layout of the store and help steal them. Days later she kept watch while her two Serbian counterparts entered the store in broad daylight, immobilized the staff and less than a minute later left with the Comtesse de Vendôme which is worth $31 million dollars.
Tokyo police partnered with Interpol and after a long investigation caught the criminals. Evidence suggests that they were part of an international theft ring called the Pink Panthers. The Comtesse was never found. Most likely its diamonds, including the 125-carat center diamond, were re-cut and sold.
4. July 28, 2013 in Cannes, France
In May 2013 the Film Festival enlivened the city of Cannes. Film directors and musicians, as well as actors and actresses walked the red carpet at the Palais des Festivals et des Congrès. Many of them wore diamonds.
All too soon the festival ended, but the brilliance and fire was not gone from the city for long. Two months later the Carlton Intercontinental hotel hosted an exhibition of stunning diamonds organized by the distinguished Leviev diamond manufacturers. The exhibition received many visitors, including a thief who arrived in the middle of the day. With his face concealed by a scarf, the thief used a handgun to dominate the guards and then left with 72 pieces of diamond jewellery valued at $127 million dollars.
A few days later, the insurer offered a reward for information leading to the whereabouts of the jewellery. The police also did their part to solve the crime by organizing an intensive manhunt, but the thief and the diamonds were never found. Local rumors suggested that Milan Poparic, a renown jewellery thief who had recently escaped from prison was the perpetrator, but this was never proven.
Advances in Security Technology
Every time a diamond heist takes place, security companies take the opportunity to study it and improve their own technology. Here are four important security advances that are keeping diamonds safer than ever:
- Biometric Safes – These state-of-the-art safes can only be opened with fingerprint recognition. This makes them especially secure and convenient, since there’s no need to carry a key orremember a combination
- Relocking Devices – As if sophisticated locks weren’t enough, the best security companies are also building more sensitive relocking devices into their safes. These mechanisms relock the safe at the slightest hint of danger.
- Ultra-Sensitive Sensors – Vaults often include infrared and ultrasonic motion detectors, as well as seismic sensors which measure vibrations in the vault and its environment. As technology progresses, these sensors are able to detect abnormalities more quickly and alert the security centre or owner faster.
- Wireless Technology – Years ago, thieves could break into a safe or vault by simply cutting the right wires. Modern security systems with their surveillance cameras and sensors are usually wireless. This makes it harder for them to be tampered with and allows them to be controlled and monitored from a security centre, personal computer or even a smartphone.
Security advances such as these go a long way towards preventing diamond heists nowadays.