Antwerp diamond heist

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The Antwerp Diamond Centre.

The Antwerp diamond heist, dubbed the “heist of the century”,[1] was the largest diamond heist in history. The thieves stole loose diamonds, gold, and other jewellery valued at more than $100 million.[2][3] The heist took place during the weekend of 15–16 February 2003, in the Antwerp World Diamond Centre (AWDC), located in the centre of the gem district in Antwerp, Belgium.


The vault that housed the diamonds is situated two floors below the AWDC. It was protected by multiple security mechanisms, including a lock with 100 million possible combinations, infrared heat detectors, a seismic sensor, Doppler radar, and a magnetic field. The AWDC itself had a private security force.[1]


Leonardo Notarbartolo had rented a sparsely furnished office for approximately 25,000 Belgian francs ($700) per month in the AWDC. This was a technique pioneered by New York City-based Serbian criminal authority ‘Mr.Stan’, Vojislav Stanimirović. It was first accomplished in New York’s diamond center two and a half years prior to the robbery. It included creating access to the safe deposit box located in the vault beneath the building. The method also provided a tenant ID card offering 24-hour access to the building.[4]There, he posed as an Italian diamond merchant in order to gain credibility. After the robbery, Notarbartolo and his team stole the security footage to conceal their identities.[5]More than 123 out of 160[2][3][6] safe deposit boxes were forced open, each of which was made of steel and copper and had both a key lock and combination lock.[1][7]


The theft is believed to have been carried out by a five-man team led by Leonardo Notarbartolo.[1] Notarbartolo had rented space in the AWDC, and was arrested after being connected to the crime by DNA evidence from a partially eaten sandwich found near the crime scene with videotapes from the AWDC.[8]

He was found guilty of orchestrating the heist. He is considered to be the leader of a ring of Italian thieves called “La Scuola di Torino” (The School of Turin),[3][9] who carried out the crime. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison,[1] but has since been released on parole.[10]

Insurance fraud[edit]

Notarbartolo claimed in an interview with Wired magazine that a diamond merchant hired them for the heist. He claims that they actually stole approximately €18 million ($20 million) worth of loot, and that the robbery was part of an insurance fraud.[5]

Due to the fact that the vault itself was uninsured, as the insurance company realised the security flaws and would have never given it one, there was actually very little insurance money involved which casts doubt on his story.[11]


The diamonds remain unrecovered.


The heist is the subject of the book Flawless: Inside the Largest Diamond Heist in History by Scott Andrew Selby and Greg Campbell. [1]

Paramount Pictures acquired the rights to create a film about the heist. It is expected to be produced by J.J. Abrams.[10][12][13][14]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Jump up to:a b c d e f The Untold Story of the World’s Biggest Diamond Heist, Wired Magazine, 03.12.09
  2. ^ Jump up to:a b The Antwerp Diamond Heist, Belgium – The Greatest Heists of All Time – Photo Gallery. LIFE. Retrieved on 2011-06-09.
  3. ^ Jump up to:a b c “10 Impressive Heists that Shocked the World”. Criminal Justice Degrees Guide. Retrieved 9 June 2011.
  4. Jump up^ Joseph Cummins (1 February 2011). Heists: Gripping Exposes of the World’s Most Notorious Robberies. Pier 9. pp. 138–. ISBN 978-1-74196-805-7. Retrieved 9 June 2011.
  5. ^ Jump up to:a b 10 Largest Robberies in History. (2009-12-01). Retrieved on 2011-06-09.
  6. Jump up^ Business | Antwerp counts cost of gem heist. BBC News (2003-02-20). Retrieved on 2011-06-09.
  7. Jump up^ Antwerp Suffers Huge Diamond Heist. (2003-02-19). Retrieved on 2011-06-09.
  8. Jump up^ The Antwerp Diamond Heist : Top 10 Heists. Investigation Discovery. Retrieved on 2011-06-09.
  9. Jump up^ Page 2: Stolen Antwerp Diamonds Still Missing – ABC News. Retrieved on 2011-06-09.
  10. ^ Jump up to:a b Antwerp diamond heist on film < Belgian news | Expatica Belgium. Retrieved on 2011-06-09.
  11. ^ Jump up to:a b FLAWLESS: Inside the Largest Diamond Heist in History. (2003-02-15). Retrieved on 2011-06-09.
  12. Jump up^ Chronicling a grand diamond heist – (2010-02-06). Retrieved on 2011-06-09.
  13. Jump up^ Hollywood Presents Antwerp’s Untold Diamond Heist. Retrieved on 2011-06-09.
  14. Jump up^ J.J. Abrams Snags Writer For Antwerp Heist Movie. Screen Rant (2010-05-20). Retrieved on 2011-06-09.