The most daring robberies in the history of crime

The most daring robberies in the history of crime

About the section

Dr. Amanda Furman’s bi-monthly column is published in the Wall Street Journal and is published exclusively in the Globes. In this column, she says, she “searches the past for the origins of today’s world”

Dr. Amanda Furman is an American-British biographer and historian. She wrote five award-winning history books and served as a judge on the Booker Prize Committee and the US National Book Award

52 years ago, on the eve of Thanksgiving in 1971, a passenger on a passenger plane, who was nicknamed “DB Cooper”, committed one of the most daring acts of robbery in the history of the United States. Around 3 in the afternoon, on flight 305 of the American airline “Noret “West Orient” from Portland to Seattle, Cooper informed the flight attendant that he demanded $200,000, about $1.3 million today, and four parachutes, or he would detonate the bomb in his possession. The authorities accepted Cooper’s demands when the plane landed in Seattle. The plane took off from there, and a few hours later So Cooper put on his parachute and jumped in. He was never seen again, but in 1980 some of the money was located near the Columbia River in Washington.

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The abduction of Alexander the Great’s body by King Ptolemy

One factor that differentiates robbery from theft is the level of planning. One of the earliest robberies in history was the kidnapping of the body of Alexander the Great in 321 BC by King Ptolemy I of Egypt. The mummified body of Alexander the Great, placed in a golden coffin, was to arrive in Macedonia, where it would bring great prestige to Perdix, the ruler of Macedonia and the rival of Ptolemy I. Instead of attacking the funeral procession, an act considered sacrilegious, King Ptolemy I devised an elaborate plot to divert it to Egypt. The Macedonians never got back the gold or the body of their king.



Which Roman ruler used to plunder?


Who is the neighborhood pirate?
“Black Old Man”?


Who are the “Pink Panthers”?

For answers, scroll to the end of the article

The King of England is involved in the robbery of the crown diamonds

There are robberies that are unusual. In May 1671, an Irish adventurer named Thomas Blood entered the Tower of London and stole the Crown Diamonds. Before reaching the gate he was captured, and ultimately imprisoned, in the place he intended to plunder. But to everyone’s surprise, he demanded a personal meeting with King Charles II. He got what he wanted. Blood walked away from the interview with a royal pardon and a large estate in Ireland. It was speculated that he received a hush money, designed to hide the fact that King Charles, who was in debt, was complicit in the plot.

The Italian nationalist who stole the Mona Lisa

Museums are targets for robberies. Vincenzo Perugia, an Italian nationalist who was working on renovations at the Louvre Museum in Paris, stole Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa in 1911, but found out pretty quickly that famous works are hard to sell. Then he claimed that he always thought that the place of the piece was in Italy.

The Mona Lisa was returned to the museum in 1913, after Perugia tried to sell it to the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. Unfortunately, many museum robbery cases remain unsolved: the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston displays 13 empty frames for paintings stolen from it in 1990.

In 2016, a cyber gang almost managed to drain $951 million from the Central Bank of Bangladesh. The scheme was supposed to last for many months, and if successful would have become one of the biggest cyber heists ever.

But the fake transfer address included the word “Jupiter”, which was also the name of an Iranian ship subject to sanctions. The seemingly innocent transfers were flagged by a computer system at the New York Federal Reserve. Less than 10% of the money ended up going to the hackers.

DB Cooper may not have gotten away with the loot, but his crime has become legendary.

Trivia answers

1. After dark, the emperor Nero used to dress up as a slave and wander the alleys of Rome, where he attacked people and broke into shops. He sold the booty at an auction in the palace.

2. Edward Teach, 18th century English pirate. Together with 300 pirates who sailed in four ships, he set sail on the Caribbean Sea.

3. An international network of jewel and diamond thieves, consisting mainly of citizens of Serbia and Montenegro, which since the beginning of the 2000s, is responsible for the most daring robberies in criminal history.


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