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How to Rob a Bank

money.gifI've been researching French bank robberies for background on a movie script I'm writing and I came across these gems -

An ingenious fraudster is believed to be sunning himself on a beach after persuading leading banks to pay him more than €5 million (£3.5 million) in the belief that he was a secret service agent engaged in the fight against terrorist money-laundering.
The man, described by detectives as the greatest conman they had encountered, convinced one bank manager to leave him €358,000 in the lavatories of a Parisian bar. “This man is going to become a hero if he isn’t caught quickly,” an officer said. “The case is exceptional, perfectly unbelievable and surreal.”

The fraudster, named as Gilbert C, slipped through the net when his wife and mother-in-law were arrested. He promptly telephoned the Paris detective squad to say that he would halt his operations in France while he spent some of his illicit gains. The call was traced to an Israeli resort.

Gilbert’s first known sting began this summer when an accomplice contacted a branch manager of La Poste, the French Post Office, which also offers banking facilities.

The accomplice pretended to be Jean-Paul Bailly, La Poste’s chief executive, and told the manager that she would soon be contacted by a member of the General Directorate for External Security (DGSE), the French equivalent of MI6.

An hour later, Gilbert rang, posing as the agent. He told the manager to buy a mobile telephone, to give him the number, to keep it switched on day and night and to speak to no one else about their conversation. He phoned her 40 times over the next 48 hours.

During the final call he asked for the names of her six richest customers. When she revealed them, he said that one was involved in financing terrorism and was about to withdraw a large sum.

Gilbert then demanded all the cash at the bank so he could mark the notes with microchips and keep track of the terrorist. A total of €358,000 was to be put in an briefcase and slipped under the door of a brasserie lavatory. The manager did as she was told. The money disappeared.

Gilbert’s next fraud was even more audacious, police say. He acquired information about important financial transactions and telephoned France’s biggest banks. Again posing as a DGSE agent, he said that some of the transactions were terrorist money-laundering operations and that the secret services needed to follow the money. But they could do so only if it were transferred to accounts abroad, he said.

The bankers believed him. Two payments of €2 million were made to accounts in Geneva and Hong Kong. However, both were blocked before the fraudster could withdraw them.

A third payment of €5.18 million was made to an account in Estonia. This time Gilbert was quicker. Police identified him by tracing his calls, but by the time they caught up with him he was in Israel.

They arrested his wife and mother-in-law at the family home outside Paris. They deny acting as accomplices.

From a 2005 story in The Times

Here's another one -

The robbery took place in Nice during a peaceful summer weekend in 1976. A team of 20 men, led by Mr. Spaggiari, burst into the vault of the Societe Generale bank from a 25-foot tunnel they had carved over the previous several weeks between the bank and a branch of the city sewer system. They worked from Friday to Sunday, emptying safe-deposit boxes and seizing most of the bank's cash reserves. The group, which became known as the ''sewer gang,'' escaped with $8 million to $10 million in gold, cash, jewelry and gems. During their stay in the vault, they cooked meals, drank wine and used antique silver tureens as toilets.

From a 1989 story in The New York Times

And a brazen robbery of a Paris jewellers -

The cheapest piece they stole was a platinum ring worth $2,800. The most expensive item: a $5 million diamond-studded bracelet. A brazen and meticulously planned robbery of the Harry Winston store in central Paris last weekend netted the unknown thieves about $28.4 million in gems, one of the largest jewelry thefts ever, French investigators said Thursday, after an inventory of the raided safe.

From New York Times of October last year.

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