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Discover the 10 Biggest Bank Heists in History

Bank building

Discover the 10 Biggest Bank Heists in History

In the movies, it’s often fun to see the bad guys rob a bank and get away with the crime. The reality is that bank robbing isn’t at all like the movies. Bank robberies are often loud and public, and quickly draw the attention of law enforcement. With this in mind, let’s jump right into the biggest bank heists in history, some of which remain unsolved to this day.

United California Bank Heist

big colorful waving national flag of california state on a american dollar money background. finance concept
One of the biggest bank heists in California, this robbery took over $9 million dollars.

Taking more than $9 million, this 1972 bank heist took place at the United California Bank in Laguna Niguel, California. Amil Dinsio was a career criminal from Ohio and put together a crew composed of his brother and close family members.

The bank heist was almost flawlessly executed without any meaningful evidence. In fact, a lack of evidence almost allowed Dinsio and his crew to get away with the crime. Unfortunately, Dinsio’s crew had pulled a similar job in Ohio a few months prior. It was this crime that the FBI was able to connect with the United California Bank job. 

With a bit of luck, the Police eventually found the townhouse the crew used as its headquarters. The police discovered a dishwasher at this location, which had fingerprints that linked back to the crew in Ohio. While they arrested and convicted all of the heist participants, they only recovered some of the money.

Dunbar Armored Robbery

Money Transport Safety Armored Truck in London
The Dunbar Armored Robbery is one of the biggest to ever take place on American soil.

With a total take of $18.9 million, the Dunbar Armored Robbery is one of the biggest bank heists in history. Taking place in September 1997, six men robbed the Dunbar Armored vehicle facilities in Los Angeles, California. 

Masterminded by Dunbar employee Allen Pace, he was able to provide detailed floor plans, the camera locations, and the necessary gear for the heist. 

On Friday night, September 12, 1997, Pace and his crew rushed two vault guards and subdued all depot employees. Unfortunately, police immediately suspected an inside job based on the lack of existing evidence. However, it would take another two years before a crack in the case was discovered.

British Bank of the Middle East

British Union Jack flag flying in front of the Bank of England in the City of London financial center
Two groups broke into the British Bank of the Middle East taking over $50 million dollars.

The year was 1976 and Lebanon was in the midst of a civil war that was ravaging the country. Taking place on January 20, the Palestinian Liberation Organization and the Christian Phalange claimed responsibility. Using locksmiths to break into the vault, the thieves took an unknown number of gold bars, foreign currency, stock certificates, and jewels. 

People widely regard this as one of the most brazen bank heists of all time. The group blasted through a Catholic church with explosives and into the neighboring bank. According to the news at the time, the team made off with as much as $50 million.

What’s shocking is that only 8 men thought up and executed this heist. However, the perpetrators remain at large and the bank has never retrieved any of the stolen items.

Northern Bank Robbery

euro coin with national flag of ireland on the euro money banknotes background. finance concept
The Northern Bank Robbery is famous for netting criminals over $41 million dollars.

One week before Christmas in 2004, a criminal group targeted a bank in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Chosen because of the size of the bank, the crew targeted two bank managers. Members of the crew took the families of the managers hostage and told the two bankers to arrive for work as they normally would each morning.

To get everyone out of the bank, the managers instructed employees to go home early. The moment all of the employees were gone, the thieves had unimpeded access to the bank. All total, the criminal group stole approximately $41 million. 

The crew loaded the stolen money into vans and then told the managers to set off the bank alarms and leave as usual. The team did let the families go and erased any trace of their presence in both homes. Unfortunately, no law enforcement has solved the case or recovered any of the money.

Brink’s-Mat Robbery

Cash transfer security company truck parked in the nice street of historical city center of European town.
Taking over $26 million, the Brink’s-Mat robbery included gold and traveler’s checks.

In November 1983, the Brink’s-Mat robbery took place at Heathrow International Trading Estate in London, England. The belief is that the thieves stole $26 million, and the crime now occupies a place in British criminal folklore.

During the robbery, a guard aligned with the crew enabled the entry of the gang of thieves into the warehouse. During the robbery, the team grabbed pure gold bullion, Spanish pesetas, 1,000 carats of diamonds, and traveler’s checks. 

Two days after the heist took place, someone tipped off police about a potential location of the robbers, but they failed to follow up on the tip. It would be another ten days before the police arrested two participants, Brian Robinson and Micky McAvoy, leading to another few years of global work to bring additional justice in 1989.

Banco Central Robbery

banker is opening safe door
More than $71 million dollars was taken from a vault in Brazil in 2005.

The year was 2005 and the place was Fortaleza, Brazil, where one biggest bank heists ever took place. Taking approximately $71 million, a 25-member crew set up a fake landscaping business to dig a tunnel into a bank vault floor.

Over three months, the crew took turns digging until they finally reached the floor of the bank. Authorities have arrested 8 people from the 25-strong crew but only recovered $20 million.

Unfortunately, the money was uninsured as the bank didn’t feel they had enough risk to justify insurance premiums. The robbers were so good at avoiding cameras and sensors that the bank didn’t know it had been robbed for two more days.

Securitas Depot Robbery

Bank of England - architecture landmark of London, UK.
One of the biggest robberies in U.K. history, the Securitas Depot netted the criminals over $83 million.

Yet another England-based robbery, the 2006 Securitas Depot robbery, stands out as the largest cash heist in U.K. history. Beginning with the kidnapping of a Securitas depot manager and his family, the criminal crew would sneak into the depot building and tie up all 14 workers who were present. 

The thieves stole $83 million worth of sterling banknotes from the Bank of England. Fortunately, authorities quickly found the getaway vehicles, and one vehicle contained almost 1.3 million British pounds.

By the time 2007 rolled around, authorities had arrested 36 people involved with the crime and recovered 17 million British pounds. Fast forward to 2016, multiple suspects remain at large as does over 32 million British pounds.

Knightsbridge Security Deposit Robbery

Facade of the Bank of Italy in Rome
The biggest bank heist in Italian history, over $97 million was stolen before the team was caught.

Unfortunately for Valerio Viccei, who had committed 50 previous armed robberies in Italy, he was almost a member of the “perfect crime” club. On July 12, 1987, in Knightsbridge, England, Valerio and an inside person carried out one of the largest bank robberies in history taking over $97 million.

On July 12, two men entered the safe deposit center and requested to rent a safe deposit box. When the manager and guards were leading the men into the vault, the men drew handguns and tied up the bank employees. The two then let in a few additional members of their crew and proceeded to break open multiple safe deposit boxes to achieve the $97 million take. 

Valerio’s fate was sealed after leaving a bloody fingerprint at the scene, which was easily traced back to him. After surveilling the team, police apprehended the crew on August 12, 1987.

Dar Es Salaam Bank Heist

big colorful waving national flag of iraq on a american dollar money background. finance concept
The most secretive bank heist ever, more than $282 million was stolen and never recovered.

Undoubtedly, the 2007 Dar Es Salaam bank heist stands out as one of the biggest bank heists in history while remaining shrouded in secrecy. This secretive crime netted over $282 million from a private financial institution in Baghdad, Iraq.

According to what we know about the robbery, the apparent masterminds were bank guards. People believed that local police and local militia supported the guards, helping them escape.

Even with the significant amount of cash stolen, we don’t know much else about this crime. No answers have been provided as to the whereabouts of the money or those responsible for the theft.

Central Bank of Iraq Robbery

Central Bank of Iraq
The most brazen bank heist ever, Saddam Hussein stole almost $1 billion dollars from the United States.

It was none other than Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein who masterminded the Central Bank of Iraq robbery. When it comes to the biggest bank heist in history, this heist undoubtedly holds the title.

On March 18, 2003, “thieves” stole close to $1 billion in U.S. currency from the Central Bank of Iraq. Taking place the day the war before the U.S. and Iraq began in 2003, Hussein sent three armored trucks to the bank along with his son Qusay. 

Qusay provided a handwritten note to the bank demanding the withdrawal of the $1 billion in currency. The five-hour improbable operation took in over $920 million, a shocking amount. The good news is that various military operations have recovered most of the cash.

Discover the 10 Biggest Bank Heists in History

NameRankDescription
#1United California Bank HeistOver $9 million was taken in this 1972 bank heist in California. 
#2Dunbar Armored RobberyIn total, more than $18.9 million was taken in this 1997 robbery. 
#3British Bank of the Middle EastBetween $20 and $50 million was taken during this 1976 robbery. 
#4Northern Bank RobberyOver $41 million was stolen during this 2004 robbery. 
#5Brink’s-Mat RobberyIt’s believed that $26 million was stolen in 1983. 
#6Banco Central Robbery$71 million was grabbed by a 25-member crew in Brazil. 
#7Securitas Depot RobberyThe largest U.K. heist ever with over $83 million was taken. 
#8Knightsbridge Security Deposit RobberyThe largest Italian heist with more than $97 million stolen. 
#9Dar Es Salaam Bank HeistAs the second largest bank robbery in history, almost nothing is known about the crime. 
#10Central Bank of Iraq Robbery
The largest bank robbery in history was carried out by a dictator and his son. 

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