About Us Contact Us Privacy Policy Terms of Use DMCA Opt-out of personalized ads
© Copyright 2023 Market Analyst. Market Analyst is a registered trademark. All Rights Reserved. People may receive compensation for some links to products and services on this website. Offers may be subject to change without notice.
Market Analyst Logo
Market Analyst Logo

When Diamonds Worth $100 Million Were Stolen in This Dazzling 'Heist of the Century'

Dubbed the Antwerp Diamond Heist, the incident was recently adapted into an Amazon Prime series.
A diamond factory employee examines a gem stone in Antwerp, Belgium | Getty Images | Photo by Paul O'Driscoll
A diamond factory employee examines a gem stone in Antwerp, Belgium | Getty Images | Photo by Paul O'Driscoll

One of the most famous partially unsolved robberies of all time is dubbed the Antwerp Diamond Heist. In 2003, a criminal gang infiltrated one of the world's most secure vaults in Antwerp, Belgium, which is regarded as the diamond capital of the world. The gang of Italian men, known as ‘the School of Turin’ made off with £90 million (~$112.8 million) worth of loose diamonds, gold, and silver from the Belgium Diamond Centre in the "heist of the century".

Representative Cover Image of a rare oval diamond | Getty Images | Photo by Peter Macdiarmid
Representative Cover Image of a rare oval diamond | Getty Images | Photo by Peter Macdiarmid

Leonardo Notarbartolo, nicknamed ‘The Artist’, masterminded the heist, which has been adapted into a series “Everybody Loves Diamonds” by Amazon Prime.

Notarbartolo meticulously planned the heist assembling a unique team. It comprised of Ferdinando Finotto a.k.a, The Monster, Elio D’Onorio a.k.a The Genius, and an anxious, paranoid man named Pietro Tavano, a.k.a Speedy, Notarbartolo’s longtime associate, as per The Wired.

Notarbartolo planned the heist for months with his team. He frequently visited the Diamond Centre posing as a dealer. He also used a camera hidden inside a pen to work out the layout of the vault during visits.

The Diamond Centre’s vault was believed to be impenetrable. The facility was inside a 14-floor fortress guarded by a private security team and protected by metal turnstiles. The vault itself was guarded by 10 layers of security, equipped with infrared heat detectors, doppler radar, a seismic sensor, and a lock with 100 million possible combinations.

Representative Image of the  Vault at the National Bank of Laredo | Getty Images | Photo by © Viviane Moos/CORBIS
Representative Image of the Vault at the National Bank of Laredo | Getty Images | Photo by © Viviane Moos/CORBIS

During his visits, ‘The Artist’ managed to get into the vault which showed hundreds of safe-deposits boxes. To plan the heist, the gang built a replica vault to practice. The Genius, who specialized in alarm systems, planned the workarounds the sensors using aerosol sprays, and some clever wiring, all of which seemed like straight out of a movie. The Monster also specialized in picking locks, mechanics, and electrics.

There was one more person, dubbed the King of Keys, who was among the best key forgers in the world. As per a report from The Sun, he was the only one who managed to avoid getting caught.

After months of planning, the gang found the perfect target for their strike. A shipment of De Beers diamonds worth millions was brought to the Diamond Centre, just two days before the heist. De Beers is the world's largest diamond-mining company and in 2003, the company controlled 55% of the global diamond supply, as per The Wired.

On the day of the heist, the gang accessed the facility through a balcony and made their way to the vault by covering up cameras. Meanwhile, The Genius disabled the alarm system and covered up the various sensors.

Once in the vault’s antechamber, they disabled the magnetic field of the door to avoid triggering another alarm. However, the group was shocked to find the vault’s original key hanging in a nearby utility room.

The Genius disabled the heat and motion sensors in the vault with women’s hair spray that formed a thin film on the sensors. The King of Keys began breaking into the deposit boxes and the gang grabbed everything they could before rushing to Notarbartolo’s car outside.

Once the job was done, the group disbursed and left the country. However, Speedy and Notarbartolo were left in charge of disposing of the evidence. They initially planned to burn everything in the woods. If they had done that, the group would have never been caught.

However, Speedy reportedly lost his cool and went hysterical while disposing of the group’s garbage. Instead of burning he ended up scattering everything on the ground and fled.

The land where Speedy threw the evidence belonged to a farmer, who was already having trouble with local teenagers dumping rubbish there. Thus, when he came across “the School of Turin’s” trash, he called the cops.

Once the cops realized that the trash had links with the diamond heist, a half-dozen detectives swarmed the forest, painstakingly gathering evidence. The police found a pile of torn paper using which they reassembled an invoice for a low-light video surveillance system, as per the Wired report. With that, they found out that the buyer was none other than Leonardo Notarbartolo or ‘The Artist’.

They also found a business card for Elio D'Onorio. While Notarbartolo refused to identify his accomplices, evidence indicates that D'Onorio is the Genius.

The police also bagged a half-eaten salami sandwich and zeroed in on the Antipasto Italiano salami packaging. The store which had a CCTV surveillance system, revealed the footage of Ferdinando Finotto, The Monster buying it.

The Artist, The Monster, The Genius, and Speedy were arrested. The Italian police broke open the safe at Notarbartolo’s home in Turin and found 17 polished diamonds that traced back to the vault. However, the gang reportedly got away with millions that were never recovered.

The Belgian courts came down hard on the thieves and sentenced each of them to five years in prison. However, Notarbartolo was found guilty of orchestrating the heist and was sentenced to 10 years.