The diamond heist is the stuff of Hollywood legend. Unlike most criminals the role of the diamond thief is cast a loveable rogue – a modern day Robin Hood. The funny thing is the robbers never distribute the bounty and their haul is very often never seen again.
One of the most famous robberies of recent times in the UK that was second only to the great train robbery of 1963 was the Brinks-MAT robbery at Heath row airport in 1983. While diamonds were involved their main objective was cash. What they actually found was gold bullion and all the inherent problems that come with such a heavy but high value item. Their original plan of a fast heist of mere minutes ended up being a laborious haul of bullion over a couple of hours. It was soon discovered that a security guard on the inside was instrumental in facilitating the heist and ultimately in the capture of his compatriots. The two things that were never recovered were the gold and the diamonds.
In something reminiscent of the pre title sequence of the James Bond film, “The World Is Not Enough” that featured speed boats and the Millennium Dome in London this next robbery was to be just as audacious. Their target gem was known as the Millennium star which had an estimated value of £430 million pounds. Despite being armed with a JCB digger to smash their way in, gas canisters, nail guns, sledgehammers and machine guns the gang’s plans had been foiled before they even started. A tip off resulted in the gem’s being swapped for fakes, their getaway speed boat being apprehended and the mild-mannered cleaners were in fact undercover cops.
Probably the greatest heist of all time was at Schiphol Airport, Amsterdam in 2005. With an estimated value of £73 million pounds the haul was certainly lucrative. Unlike more complex heists this theft was crude and rudimentary. It involved no more than the hijacking of the diamond truck. The thieves were driving a stolen KLM van and were wearing KLM uniforms as they pulled along side their target. Neither the thieves nor the diamonds were even seen again. As the diamonds were uncut and were thus harder to value as a consequence it made them much easier to disappear into the market.
In a heist that sounds like a scene from Oceans 11, thieves in The Hague managed to clear out the most valuable pieces of a diamond exhibition that was open to the public. Rather amazingly they circumvented motion sensors, security guards, reinforced glass and video cameras. To this day nobody knows how they did it. One single broken window was the only clue that anything had ever happened. £7 million pounds sterling of Royal gems had simply vanished, never to be seen again. The Museum will not talk about the theft but it is speculated that many priceless historical and Royal pieces were lifted in the Heist.