Real Heists In Popular History by Pamela Fernandes

“The Milanese Stars” by Pamela Fernandes will soon be available for purchase on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and the TouchPoint Press Bookstore. In anticipation of the release the author has ranked some of the most memerable real-life heists in recorded history. Check these out!

A few weeks ago, I shared some of the most popular heist movies of all time. Today, I’m going to talk about diamond heists in real life that would make those movies seem mild. Diamond thieves have successfully managed to hoodwink everyone by creating elaborate plans to execute some of the most shocking heists of the century. They’re not as uncommon as you think. Every couple of years, robbers mastermind ways of stealing big diamonds. It’s no simple robbery. It requires engineering and endurance. And it requires guts!


Source: Aenigmatis-3D

Here are some of the more memorable ones:

  1. 2013 Carlton Heist

Where: Carlton Hotel, Cannes, France

The jewels were on display by Lev Avnerovich Leviev, the Israeli billionaire in a private salon of the Carlton Intercontinental Hotel. They were stolen by an armed thief carrying a handgun. Although a manhunt was initiated, no arrests were made.

After forcing open a French door, he picked up a sack containing 72 jewels, 34 of which have been described as exceptional and walked away with them in a suitcase. The heist has been called the biggest ever in France, and possibly the biggest of all time. Ironically, the theft happened at the same hotel where Alfred Hitchcock’s 1955 film To Catch a Thief was set.

  1. The Museum heist (2002)

Where: The Museon Museum of Science, The Hague

Total Value: Approximately $12 million

In December 2002, thieves pulled off one of the most surreal diamond heists of all time. The Museon, a science museum in The Hague, Netherlands, had been putting on a diamond exhibit. Many pieces were lent to the Museon by other museums and private collectors. The display also included a wedding gift given by King William III to Queen Mary II of England and other jewels of the royal family.

The most valuable pieces disappeared on Sunday night or Monday morning. Since the museum remained closed on Monday, the theft went undetected for 24 hours. Museum officials entered the premises on Tuesday, only to find that six of the exhibit’s 28 display cases were empty.

The heist itself was inexplicable as the Museon had 24-hour security guards monitoring entrances and exits, with 24-hour surveillance-camera footage covering every inch of the exhibit. The cases were situated in a motion-detection zone and housed in reinforced glass. The heist itself was flawless as the video footage drew up a blank and the guards didn’t see a thing, the motion sensors never went off, and the display cases weren’t tampered with. The only evidence of a break-in was a single smashed window and the empty cases.  The value of the haul, a conservative 12 million although it is suspected to be more.

  1. Antwerp diamond heist (2003)

Where: Antwerp Diamond Center, Antwerp, Belgium

Total Value: Approximately $100 million

The Antwerp diamond heist of 2003 is dubbed the “heist of the century.” One of the largest diamond heists ever took place in Antwerp, Belgium, in 2003. It goes down in history books with the value of the haul confirmed to be $100 million. Eighty percent of the world’s uncut gems go through Antwerp also the diamond capital of the world, where they are stored in underground vaults of the Antwerp Diamond Center building. Of the 160 safety deposit boxes in the vault, only 123 were emptied. Diamond Center employees came to find loose diamonds strewn about because the loot was so big that the thieves couldn’t take more.

It was assumed that at least four people were involved in planning the theft for years. The police identified the gang as the School of Turin, a  group of thieves that never used violence. They finally caught them through DNA prints left behind in the vault and were imprisoned. But the $100 million worth of diamonds and other gems were never found.

  1. Schiphol Airport Heist (2005)

Where: Schiphol Airport

Total Value: Maybe $118 million

The Schiphol Airport Heist involved uncut diamonds that were roughly estimated to be about$118 million. The thieves modus operandi was simple: a truck hijacking. Two weeks before the heist, the thieves conducted a mock heist in a stolen KLM Cargo truck.  Then wearing stolen KLM uniforms, the gang drove to a truck carrying diamonds to be loaded on a plane to Antwerp. They forced the drivers out at gunpoint, jumped into the truck and drove away. The stones were never recovered.

  1. Damiani Heist (2008)

Where: The Damiani showroom in Milan, Italy

Total Value: Approximately $20 million

Thieves made off with millions of dollars worth of diamonds, rubies, and gold from the Damiani showroom in Milan.

Damiani’s showroom was secure, with a state of the art alarm system and an armed guard at the front door. That didn’t prevent the thieves who had been drilling a hole daily through the 4foot wall separating the showroom basement from the neighboring one. The store had been preparing for a private showing, so there were no customers. The thieves dressed in fake police uniforms showed up in the showroom, asking to see store records. Soon they seized their moment and tied the staff. The operation took thirty minutes, scoring about $20 million in diamonds, rubies, and gold.  Damiani’s most valuable pieces were out on loan to Hollywood’s stars, including Oscar-winner Tilda Swinton, who wore Damiani’s “Sahara Bracelet,” carrying 1,865 diamonds of more than 47 carats.



  1. Harry Winston Diamonds (2008)

Where: Harry Winston store, Paris, France

Total Value: $107 million

This Paris heist was executed in a calm manner. In 2008, four gun-toting robbers stormed the Harry Winston store and walked away with roughly $107 million worth of jewelry and diamonds. The men were disguised as women and within twenty minutes relieved the store of their jewelry stock. They quietly exited the store, drove away and were never seen again.

  1. Graff Diamond Heist (2008)

Where: Graff Diamonds, London, England

Total Value: Approximately $65 million

Two men wearing suits entered the Graff diamonds store in London. They looked like any other wealthy men shopping for precious gems. But the men’s facial profiles had been altered by a professional makeup artist, who changed their skin color and used prosthetics to significantly alter their appearance. They walked into the store, pulled out a handgun and drove away with forty pieces of jewelry worth a whopping $65 million.

During their hasty escape, they left behind a cell phone in one of the getaway cars which led police to them and eight other accomplices. Yet, the jewelry was never recovered.

In almost all these cases, the stolen merchandise was never found, and it makes one wonder where the precious stones have disappeared? Into the hands of private collectors, in secret vaults or somehow unnoticed in a window display of a jewelry store. These true stories show that heists are not just the stuff of fiction, they do happen in real life.

If you’ve enjoyed this post, you will definitely like my contemporary romance, “The Milanese Stars” which was loosely based on the Damiani heist. Check back soon for nformation about how to pre-order your own copy of “The Milanese Stars.”


2 thoughts on “Real Heists In Popular History by Pamela Fernandes


  2. Pingback: Meet author Pamela Q. Fernandes | writingandbreathing

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