10 Greatest Bank Heists of All Time

Bank robberies are a favorite subject of both printed fiction and movies, but some pretty spectacular thefts have occurred in real life too.  Here are some of the most expensive bank heists of all time from around the world.

1.  Largest Sum Stolen from a Bank in History

In 2003, Saddam Hussein stole one billion US dollars from the Central Bank of Iraq on the day before the US began its attack on Baghdad, constituting the largest bank robbery in history.  Saddam’s personal assistants Qusay and Abid al-Hamid Mahmood were identified by bank officials as being involved in the heist.  Just over 650 million dollars of the stolen money was found hidden within the walls of one of Hussein’s palaces.  Other large caches of money were found in strategic locations that also pointed to Saddam having masterminded the operation.

2.  These Security Guards Weren’t Asleep on the Job

Saddam’s regime was not the only group to take advantage of the instability in the Middle East.  In 2007, Dar Es Salaam (a private bank located in Baghdad) was looted by a group of night security guards who usually slept at the bank.  The doors were left open and the money.  As far as bank heists go, it was very unsophisticated but effective.  The guards were never caught.

3.  Landscaping Investment Pays Off

A team of thieves in Brazil tunnel their way to millions.  After intense planning, this group of criminals established a landscaping business as a front that would allow them to move massive amounts of dirt and rock without arousing suspicion.  They constructed a 250 foot tunnel, complete with lighting and air conditioning, over the course of three months to gain access to the vault in Fortaleza, Brazil’s Banco Central.  The gang made off with the equivalent of approximately $70 million US dollars.

4.  Heist Crew Goes to Church and Comes out with a Fortune

The British Bank of the Middle East (located in Beirut) was robbed by the Palestinian Liberation Organization in 1976 by accessing the building through the wall of a Catholic church next door.  The PLO group got away with $20-50 million dollars in this memorable heist.

5.  An Explosive Hostage Situation in France

In 1992, a group of around 10 Frenchmen exploited a security guard’s love of his family to gain entrance to the vaults of the Bank of France in Toulon.  Holding the family hostage, they strapped explosives to the chest of the guard and forced him to let them in and plunder the vaults for a haul of about $30 million.  Less than ten percent of the loot was ever recovered, even though most of the thieves have been arrested.

6.  Bank Robbery on Wheels

$18.9 million is the largest amount of cash stolen in United States history.  It was lifted by Allen Pace in the Dunbar Armored Heist during a bank transfer  He was the regional safety inspector for the Dunbar Armored transport company, so he was able to do his surveillance and planning right out in the open.  A piece of a U-Haul tail light at the scene from the get-away vehicle is what eventually led police to arrest Pace.

7.  From Vault to Van to Prison

In 1997, Loomis-Fargo and Company was looted to the tune of $17.9 million by its own employee, armored truck driver David Scott Ghannt, who was also a vault supervisor.  He and his partner Steve Chambers raided the vault, threw the money in a van, and took off.  Ghannt fled to Cozumel where he was apprehended by Mexican police and the FBI.

8.  With Friends like These, Who Needs Enemies?

Stanley Mark Rifkin pulled off the largest bank heist on US soil at the time in 1978, when he stole $10.8 million from Security Pacific National Bank.  Rifkin was practically flawless in his execution of the crime; the bank had to be notified by the FBI that they had been robbed because they didn’t even realize it.  However, he should have given as much attention to detail in choosing his business partners.  One of them ratted him out to the FBI.

9.  Bank Employees Unwilling Accomplices in a Massive Heist

Ireland’s largest bank heist is the stuff of which movies are made.  Thought to be the work of the Dublin mob, this thefts was performed by a group of armed men who took bank employees Shane Travers and his loved ones hostage in order to steal $9 million from the Bank of Ireland.  The bank’s security practices have been called into question because the robbery went off without a hitch and took less than fifteen minutes.

10.  Rob a Bank so You can Win the Lottery?

In the largest bank theft in Chinese history, the thieves stole in order to buy lottery tickets.  Bank vault managers Ren Xiaofeng and Ma Xiangjing committed a series of robberies from the Architectural Bank of China, totaling the equivalent of $6.7 million dollars in Chinese Yuan.  They even paid back some of the stolen money with winnings, but they were not lucky enough at the lotto to pay it all back.