Antwerp diamond heist

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The Antwerp Diamond Centre

The Antwerp diamond heist, dubbed the "heist of the century",[1] was one of the largest robberies in history. Thieves stole loose diamonds, gold, and jewellery valued at more than $100 million.[2][3] It took place in Antwerp, Belgium, during the weekend of 15–16 February 2003.


The vault that housed the diamonds is situated two floors below the main floor. 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 building 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 Antwerp World Diamond Centre. 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 many years prior to this 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 was carried out by a five-man team led by Leonardo Notarbartolo.[1] Notarbartolo had rented space in the diamond district, and was arrested after being connected to the crime by DNA evidence from a partially eaten salami sandwich found near the crime scene.[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 by the court of appeal of Antwerp in 2005,[1] but had since been released on parole in 2009.[10] In 2011 a European Arrest Warrant was issued against him after he was found to have violated his parole conditions. One of these conditions was that he needed to compensate the victims of the heist, which he never made any attempt at. As a consequence, he was arrested again in 2013 at the Charles De Gaulle Airport in Paris during a layover from the United States to Turin, and was made to serve the remainder of his prison sentence until 2017.[11]

Insurance fraud[edit]

Notarbartolo claimed in an interview with Wired magazine that a Jewish 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 an insurance policy, there was actually very little insurance money involved, which casts doubt on his story.[12]


Most of the diamonds stolen 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]

The story of this diamond heist was featured on The Travel Channel's “Mysteries At The Museum” Season 13/Episode 4 titled “Project Vortex, Diamond Heist and Tinseltown, NJ”, narrated by series host Don Wildman.

Paramount Pictures optioned the rights to create a film about the heist, which have since expired. It was to be produced by J.J. Abrams.[10][13][14][15]

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 Exposés 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. ^ Peeters, Steven (18 February 2013). "Brein achter 'diamantkraak van de eeuw' zit opnieuw in Belgische cel" [Brain behind 'diamond heist of the century' jailed again in Belgium]. Het Laatste Nieuws (in Dutch). Retrieved 26 March 2019.
  12. ^ a b FLAWLESS: Inside the Largest Diamond Heist in History. (2003-02-15). Retrieved on 2011-06-09.
  13. ^ Chronicling a grand diamond heist – (2010-02-06). Retrieved on 2011-06-09.
  14. ^ Hollywood Presents Antwerp’s Untold Diamond Heist. Retrieved on 2011-06-09.
  15. ^ [ J.J. Abrams Snags Writer For Antwerp Heist Movie .Burl Barer Edgar Award winning true crime author is coloborating with the other perpetrators and individuals from the "School of Turin" writing about what really transpired and how much was really taken , will be released as a True Crime Series, 2018 Screen Rant (2010-05-20). Retrieved on 2011-06-09.

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