Have you watched Money Heist, better known as “La Casa de Papel”? If you have, then you are a little bit familiar with how robberies and heists are carried out. While this is just a Netflix series, infamous robberies have occurred throughout history, not only in Europe but also in the Middle East, as banks and antiques (particularly art) are always viable targets for plot-twist thefts. With that in mind, we will share with you some of the most notable robberies in the Middle East, which are famous not only for the amount of money and value stolen but also for the effort and planning that went into the robbery.
British Bank of the Middle East
On January 20, 1976, a group decided to rob the local branch of the British Bank of the Middle East located on rue des Banques, near the Place de l’Etoile, the seat of Parliament, in Beirut. Diamonds, gold bars, jewelry, and foreign currency worth $133 million were collected by the shooters, who remain unidentified to this day. They used explosives to break through the banks’ barriers and rapidly seized as much loot as they could carry before fleeing into the city according to Libnan News. The money was sent out of the country, and the thieves were never caught.
Van Gogh Painting
In 2010, the Khalil Museum in Doqi, Giza Governorate, was closed due to the theft of its most valuable asset, Vincent van Gogh’s Vase with Flowers. During the opening hours, a bold burglar used a knife to cut the painting from its frame. The painting had been stolen before, but this was the second time it had been taken. Based on The Art News Pap, Vase with Flowers features yellow blossoms with various contrasting poppies on a black backdrop and is thought to date around the summer of 1886, a few months after Van Gogh’s arrival in Paris. Vase with Flowers was stolen for the first time in 1978, and it was discovered in suspicious circumstances two years later after surfacing in Kuwait.
Illegal Sale of the Sarcophagus
The story begins in 2011 when tomb raiders unearthed the golden sarcophagus of a first-century Egyptian priest that was prepped up in gems and adorned with Egyptian hieroglyphics. It is claimed to escort Nedjemankh, chief priest of the ram-headed Egyptian god Heryshef, through the afterlife, according to tradition. Consequently, the treasure went via art dealers in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Germany, and France before being sold to the Met, The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City for approximately $4 million in 2017. However, the FBI found the piece’s entry into the United States questionable and initiated an inquiry with French officials. When the artifact was returned for display in Egypt in 2019, two Frenchmen, named Christophe K and Richard S, were arrested over its theft. Now the mystery of the artifact has been solved, as a German-Lebanese antique dealer turned smuggler Roben D has been linked to the illegal sale of the sarcophagus according to Arab News.
The Dar Es Salaam Bank heist
This one is an incredible robbery in Iraq, Baghdad when bank guards stole more than a quarter-billion dollars some sources claim. The robbery of $282 million from a Dar Es Salaam private banking organization raised more questions than it answered, as officials remained tight-lipped about the crime. According to local police, the crime was carried out by two guards, however, an official from the interior ministry stated that three guards were involved. Nonetheless, according to The New York Times, the stolen money was revealed to be in U.S. dollars rather than Iraqi dinars. It’s unclear why the bank had so much cash in dollars on hand, or how the thieves were able to move such a large volume of money without being noticed.
AI Bank Heist
According to Forbes, using AI-enhanced voice imitation, hackers stole $35 million from a bank in the United Arab Emirates. The “deepfaked” voices were used to deceive a bank employee into believing he was handing over money in connection with a legitimate business transaction with the bank. According to the court record, the person on the other end of the telephone claimed to be a director of a significant corporation with whom the manager had previously communicated, and they sounded exactly like them. This, combined with what appeared to be emailed from the corporation and its lawyer, persuaded the branch manager that the company was in the middle of a $35 million business deal.
While there are many specifics about each theft that are unknown, it is safe to assume that the stolen amounts or objects were of high value and that the robberies were definitely too good to be caught or even identified in the first place in some cases. Leaving us until this day wondering how they were executed.