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 February 15–16, 2003, in the Antwerp Diamond Centre, located in the centre of the gem district in Antwerp, Belgium.


The vault that housed the diamonds is situated two floors below the Diamond Centre. 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 diamond centre 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 diamond centre two and a half years prior to the robbery. It included a safe deposit box located in the vault beneath the building. It also included a tenant ID card that gave him 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 diamond center, and was arrested after being connected to the crime by DNA evidence from a partially eaten sandwich found near the crime scene along with video tapes from the diamond centre.[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 realized 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 will be produced by J.J. Abrams.[10][12][13][14]

See also[edit]


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

Coordinates: 51°12′58″N 4°25′04″E / 51.2162°N 4.4177°E / 51.2162; 4.4177