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Flawless: Inside the Largest Diamond Heist in History

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On February 15, 2003, a group of thieves broke into an allegedly airtight vault in the international diamond capital of Antwerp, Belgium and made off with over $108 million dollars worth of diamonds and other valuables. They did so without tripping an alarm or injuring a single guard in the process. Although the crime was perfect, the getaway was not. The police zeroed in On February 15, 2003, a group of thieves broke into an allegedly airtight vault in the international diamond capital of Antwerp, Belgium and made off with over $108 million dollars worth of diamonds and other valuables. They did so without tripping an alarm or injuring a single guard in the process. Although the crime was perfect, the getaway was not. The police zeroed in on a band of professional thieves fronted by Leonardo Notarbartolo, a dapper Italian who had rented an office in the Diamond Center and clandestinely cased its vault for over two years.  The “who” of the crime had been answered, but the “how” remained largely a mystery. Enter Scott Andrew Selby, a Harvard Law grad and diamond expert, and Greg Campbell, author of Blood Diamonds, who undertook a global goose chase to uncover the true story behind the daring heist. Tracking the threads of the story throughout Europe—from Belgium to Italy, in seedy cafés and sleek diamond offices—the authors sorted through an array of conflicting details, divergent opinions and incongruous theories to put together the puzzle of what actually happened that Valentine’s Day weekend.This real-life Ocean’s Eleven—a combination of diamond history, journalistic reportage, and riveting true-crime story—provides a thrilling in-depth study detailing the better-than-fiction heist of the century.


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On February 15, 2003, a group of thieves broke into an allegedly airtight vault in the international diamond capital of Antwerp, Belgium and made off with over $108 million dollars worth of diamonds and other valuables. They did so without tripping an alarm or injuring a single guard in the process. Although the crime was perfect, the getaway was not. The police zeroed in On February 15, 2003, a group of thieves broke into an allegedly airtight vault in the international diamond capital of Antwerp, Belgium and made off with over $108 million dollars worth of diamonds and other valuables. They did so without tripping an alarm or injuring a single guard in the process. Although the crime was perfect, the getaway was not. The police zeroed in on a band of professional thieves fronted by Leonardo Notarbartolo, a dapper Italian who had rented an office in the Diamond Center and clandestinely cased its vault for over two years.  The “who” of the crime had been answered, but the “how” remained largely a mystery. Enter Scott Andrew Selby, a Harvard Law grad and diamond expert, and Greg Campbell, author of Blood Diamonds, who undertook a global goose chase to uncover the true story behind the daring heist. Tracking the threads of the story throughout Europe—from Belgium to Italy, in seedy cafés and sleek diamond offices—the authors sorted through an array of conflicting details, divergent opinions and incongruous theories to put together the puzzle of what actually happened that Valentine’s Day weekend.This real-life Ocean’s Eleven—a combination of diamond history, journalistic reportage, and riveting true-crime story—provides a thrilling in-depth study detailing the better-than-fiction heist of the century.

30 review for Flawless: Inside the Largest Diamond Heist in History

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jill Hutchinson

    This book could have had an alternate title called "Brilliant" as it certainly falls into that category. In 2003, the largest diamond heist in history occurred and the author delights the reader with the step-by-step preparation and execution of the amazing robbery. Antwerp, Belgium is the diamond capital of the world and through the ultra secure Diamond District, millions upon million of dollars worth of gems (80% of the world's available supply) pass daily. The electronic and men-on-the-ground This book could have had an alternate title called "Brilliant" as it certainly falls into that category. In 2003, the largest diamond heist in history occurred and the author delights the reader with the step-by-step preparation and execution of the amazing robbery. Antwerp, Belgium is the diamond capital of the world and through the ultra secure Diamond District, millions upon million of dollars worth of gems (80% of the world's available supply) pass daily. The electronic and men-on-the-ground security was thought to be unbreakable. But expert jewel thieves from Italy known as the School of Turin were convinced that anywhere can be robbed with enough preparation. A small group of the School spent three years looking for any weaknesses in the security and eventually found them. Their leader infiltrated one of the buildings in the Diamond District, by renting an office and posing as a diamond dealer. He was a jeweler by trade so he could talk the talk with other dealers. The reader is then entertained and fascinated by the planning and implementation of this historic robbery as well as a look at the secretive world of diamonds and diamond dealing. I will reveal no more about the outcome but will say that the loot was never recovered and is still out there somewhere. The Diamond District officials have given the opinion that it will never be found. Highly recommended.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Alex Givant

    Excellent account on Antwerp diamont heist. I always amazed how much efforts and thinking criminals put in some high-value heists. Interesting facts about diamond industry too! Excellent account on Antwerp diamont heist. I always amazed how much efforts and thinking criminals put in some high-value heists. Interesting facts about diamond industry too!

  3. 5 out of 5

    Carlos

    4.5 starts for this one . What makes this book a good one is the fact that this actually happened, a group of people robbed the diamond center in Antwerp and made out with almost 500000 $ in diamonds and fleeing currency, 4 people were accused and went to trial , they never talked...even until now there is no clarity as to how it happened but this book tries to answer those question...this book feels like a movie and better than one at the same time . Highly recommend it if you are looking for a 4.5 starts for this one . What makes this book a good one is the fact that this actually happened, a group of people robbed the diamond center in Antwerp and made out with almost 500000 $ in diamonds and fleeing currency, 4 people were accused and went to trial , they never talked...even until now there is no clarity as to how it happened but this book tries to answer those question...this book feels like a movie and better than one at the same time . Highly recommend it if you are looking for a thrilling nonfiction book.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Lewis Weinstein

    a fascinating story ... an incredible plan methodically prepared and executed ... one critical mistake ... and the loot was never recovered ...

  5. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    I got this eBook free via Barnes & Noble on Facebook! It's a good read so far -- has the feel of Ocean's 11, except it's a true story. I'm learning a lot of things that I didn't know about the Antwerp diamond district -- which I didn't even know existed. I got this eBook free via Barnes & Noble on Facebook! It's a good read so far -- has the feel of Ocean's 11, except it's a true story. I'm learning a lot of things that I didn't know about the Antwerp diamond district -- which I didn't even know existed.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Yibbie

    For a book about a fabulous diamond heist, I found large sections rather boring. It was informative almost exhaustively so. For example, I can understand why you need to understand the recent political and social history of Turin. Without that, it would never make sense why it was the headquarters for the gang. But did it really have to start with Hannibal? That was how just about every topic introduced is handled whether it’s locks, the Diamond Center, or characters. So I learned a lot, but it For a book about a fabulous diamond heist, I found large sections rather boring. It was informative almost exhaustively so. For example, I can understand why you need to understand the recent political and social history of Turin. Without that, it would never make sense why it was the headquarters for the gang. But did it really have to start with Hannibal? That was how just about every topic introduced is handled whether it’s locks, the Diamond Center, or characters. So I learned a lot, but it tended to drag. Oh, then there was the repetition. It’s especially repetitive about cell phones. He describes over and over why they chose to use burner phones. That wasn’t the only thing that got repetitive, but it stands out the strongest. I also found the name somewhat unfortunate. There really isn’t anything flawless about the whole episode. The security in the Diamond Center wasn’t flawless. The heist obviously wasn’t flawless. Nor was the investigation flawless. I guess some of the diamonds were flawless. I expected something to work out perfectly or at least fully, but by the end of the story I was rather let down. I guess that is what I should have expected from real life, but the title was misleading. There were three or four crude words quoted. Besides those, it was a clean book.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Whitney

    Being largest diamond heist in history- really, one of the largest heists ever, this book is inherently interesting. It answers the burning questions like, how did they do it? Did they get caught? Although we don't really know exactly how they did it (nobody talked), the fast paced action of this book takes you through the process and gives you a taste of the excitement that the thieves must have been feeling as they went through it. At 230ish pages, it is pretty fast paced. Lots of nonfiction l Being largest diamond heist in history- really, one of the largest heists ever, this book is inherently interesting. It answers the burning questions like, how did they do it? Did they get caught? Although we don't really know exactly how they did it (nobody talked), the fast paced action of this book takes you through the process and gives you a taste of the excitement that the thieves must have been feeling as they went through it. At 230ish pages, it is pretty fast paced. Lots of nonfiction like this can get slow, but I thought that really the only slow part is when the author describes the streets of the Diamond District- but even then, it's good to be able to visualize. This is like the real life version of Ocean's Eleven--sorry, can't escape the comparison, especially since it's a little ironic that that movie came out while the thieves were in the middle of planning the heist. The straightforward writing complemented the action of the story. And kind of crazy-- I don't know if the authors were trying to do this--but I found myself cheering for the thieves a lot of the time! http://enjoyabookblog.com

  8. 5 out of 5

    Vicky Hunt

    High Tech Security Rendered Worthless with Hairspray, Electrical Tape, and Styrofoam Whether family heirlooms, personal investments, corporate diamond industry products, blood diamonds, war/ conflict diamonds, or just black diamonds in general... diamonds represent a highly valued method of portable and exchangeable wealth that is not dependent on currency or political stability. The diamond district in Belgium sees much of the diamond traffic that circulates the globe. This book follows the deta High Tech Security Rendered Worthless with Hairspray, Electrical Tape, and Styrofoam Whether family heirlooms, personal investments, corporate diamond industry products, blood diamonds, war/ conflict diamonds, or just black diamonds in general... diamonds represent a highly valued method of portable and exchangeable wealth that is not dependent on currency or political stability. The diamond district in Belgium sees much of the diamond traffic that circulates the globe. This book follows the details of the investigation into the biggest diamond heist in history that took place a decade and a half ago. The most intriguing part was the actual safe-cracking section, and the details about how the crooks disabled an impregnable vault with multiple alarms: motion detector, infrared thermal detector, magnetic detector, and light detector using just hairspray, electrical tape, and Styrofoam. The vault also had keyed and combination locks. Much is still unknown, but much was pieced together by the luck of finding the garbage the thieves dumped. Most of the money and currency was never recovered and there is not even a true accounting possible of the real total lost, since much that was stolen was from individuals who feared to file a claim on what was unreported black market stock. "Whether we fall by ambition, blood, or lust, like diamonds we are cut with our own dust." The author is good at weaving it all together in an easy to follow sequence that includes the important details to allow readers to form their own theories as to some of the lingering questions about the heist and the elusive loot. It keeps you focused on the details of the diamond industry; from mining all the way through the diamond bourses, and the diamantaires who cut and sell the diamonds. The criminal side is also covered intricately. On one side are the safe designers, the security industry, the diamond detectives and the insurance investigators. On the other side, the 'School of Turin' criminals from Italy who loosely work together to pull off different jobs based on their own personal set of skills. And, then the criminal justice system that gives 5 year sentences for such a massive crime as this. And, specific details of diamond appraisal are explained as well. The book talks about the ethics of the industry, and how there have been efforts to curtail terrorists from using the diamond industry to fund their own work. Ultimately, it reminds you of piracy and the basic fact that human greed rather than currency or stones is the root cause of crime. I read this book in the Audible format narrated well by Don Hagen. This was my stop in Belgium for my Journey Around the World in 80 Books challenge. Now, I am moving South to the tiny country of Luxembourg.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Jacob

    This was a decent account of a very interesting crime. I guess I expected the story to be somewhat similar to the movie of the same name, but it was totally different. In fact, the only thing similar besides the name is that it is a story of a diamond heist. Anyway, I don't think that prevents me from evaluating this book on its merits. There's some good background here on the diamond industry, and the authors are pretty careful to make it clear in the text what they know for sure and what is con This was a decent account of a very interesting crime. I guess I expected the story to be somewhat similar to the movie of the same name, but it was totally different. In fact, the only thing similar besides the name is that it is a story of a diamond heist. Anyway, I don't think that prevents me from evaluating this book on its merits. There's some good background here on the diamond industry, and the authors are pretty careful to make it clear in the text what they know for sure and what is conjecture, or even when there are multiple valid ideas about what happened. However, the story is told in a "he may have done this next" way that constantly reminds you that you are reading a fictionalized narrative. If the authors wanted to write a fictionalized narrative (a good way to go), they should have made it more like The Great Train Robbery or Freedom: A Novel of Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War and just assumed full narrative control. They could have included notes at the back to make clear what was fact and what was conjecture. The way it was written made it hard to get into, and it only gets better in a couple of places where they do slip into full narrative control, for example when the thieves are actually raiding the safe deposit boxes.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Fred Hughes

    This is a fairly detailed account of the world's largest diamond heist. The thieves made a couple of minor mistakes and were caught and served their time. But the diamonds were never recovered Fun book This is a fairly detailed account of the world's largest diamond heist. The thieves made a couple of minor mistakes and were caught and served their time. But the diamonds were never recovered Fun book

  11. 4 out of 5

    Suzanne

    The fun of participating in reading challenges is discovering exciting new books. I was challenged to read a book having to do with diamonds, so I selected a non-fiction work about a jewel heist. In 2003, a group of Italian thieves broke into a secure vault in Antwerp's Diamond District, and stole what could be valued at $500 million in jewels, precious metals and cash. Author Scott Andrew Selby presents a work of narrative non-fiction, outlining the impressive details of the robbery and how law The fun of participating in reading challenges is discovering exciting new books. I was challenged to read a book having to do with diamonds, so I selected a non-fiction work about a jewel heist. In 2003, a group of Italian thieves broke into a secure vault in Antwerp's Diamond District, and stole what could be valued at $500 million in jewels, precious metals and cash. Author Scott Andrew Selby presents a work of narrative non-fiction, outlining the impressive details of the robbery and how law enforcement were able to track down the culprits. The book is well-written, well-researched, and exciting. I found myself gripped by the narrative, curious as to what would happen next. In spite of the fact that the perpetrators were caught, the loot was never recovered. I highly recommend this one!

  12. 4 out of 5

    Tessa

    This was an interesting book to listen to. It goes into great detail about the heist and how it was perpetrated, and is very concise on which parts are factual and which are guesses. I also found the background information about the diamond industry surprisingly interesting; I knew very little about it, so this part of the book was actually quite educational for me. Recommended for fans of The Great Pearl Heist: London's Greatest Thief and Scotland Yard's Hunt for the World's Most Valuable Neckl This was an interesting book to listen to. It goes into great detail about the heist and how it was perpetrated, and is very concise on which parts are factual and which are guesses. I also found the background information about the diamond industry surprisingly interesting; I knew very little about it, so this part of the book was actually quite educational for me. Recommended for fans of The Great Pearl Heist: London's Greatest Thief and Scotland Yard's Hunt for the World's Most Valuable Necklace as it is written in a similar style.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Joyce

    I'm a fan of capers and this is a good non-fiction one. Generally I prefer film capers, as there's often too much detail which slows the pace in writing. Here the backstory is fascinating enough--the biographies of the thieves, the story of the diamond industry, Antwerp, and the theft-to hold my interest. There's not a sense of breathless anticipation as the theft details are revealed but a real sense of following an investigation with myriad facts, hypotheses, and characters. Well-researched an I'm a fan of capers and this is a good non-fiction one. Generally I prefer film capers, as there's often too much detail which slows the pace in writing. Here the backstory is fascinating enough--the biographies of the thieves, the story of the diamond industry, Antwerp, and the theft-to hold my interest. There's not a sense of breathless anticipation as the theft details are revealed but a real sense of following an investigation with myriad facts, hypotheses, and characters. Well-researched and laid out.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Cheryl Hager

    if not for the BR reading challenge, I would have never considered this book, or any true crime book, for that matter. I tried to remember where and what I was doing when all this hit the news in 2003...I don't remember any of it. Just think, if these guys, and others like them, put this same effort into something productive and law-abiding, the world would be less of a sesspool. if not for the BR reading challenge, I would have never considered this book, or any true crime book, for that matter. I tried to remember where and what I was doing when all this hit the news in 2003...I don't remember any of it. Just think, if these guys, and others like them, put this same effort into something productive and law-abiding, the world would be less of a sesspool.

  15. 4 out of 5

    JRay

    Fascinating true story about the largest diamond heist in history. An easy and enjoyable read!

  16. 4 out of 5

    Ethan

    Flawless: Inside the Largest Diamond Heist in History details the 2003 Antwerp diamond heist, the largest objective heist in history. (Objective meaning the value of stolen goods is accurate. Stolen artwork's value is difficult to quantify.) While the heist itself comprises most of the book, the authors discuss culture and industry information as needed. The book is organized in rough chronological order. It begins with a detailed history of the Italian city Turin, where all of the thieves involv Flawless: Inside the Largest Diamond Heist in History details the 2003 Antwerp diamond heist, the largest objective heist in history. (Objective meaning the value of stolen goods is accurate. Stolen artwork's value is difficult to quantify.) While the heist itself comprises most of the book, the authors discuss culture and industry information as needed. The book is organized in rough chronological order. It begins with a detailed history of the Italian city Turin, where all of the thieves involved in the heist hail from. The chapter is titled School of Turin, referencing the not-insignificant amount of career criminals that the city produces (schools may be a better verb here). The authors describe the history and culture of the city, and how Notarbartolo, the mastermind behind the heist, fits in to the city. The history and current standing of the diamond industry is provided throughout the book: culture, conflict (see blood diamonds), and standard operating procedures, among other aspects. Readers will also learn how the giant De Beers unashamedly has (had?) a monopoly on the diamond industry. (Consider getting your significant other a moissanite stone or lab-grown diamond. Significantly less expensive and conflict-free!) A majority of the book details the planning, preparation, and execution of the heist. Notarbartolo spent over two years casing the building and its security before they executed. These two years were not spent waiting for the right moment - Notarbartolo was constantly taking notes and gaining information crucial to the heist (type of vault door, patterns of security, etc). He made regular trips back to Italy to consult with his partners and share his recent learnings. These two long years culminated on the evening of 15 February 2003. The team was able to infiltrate the building using a homemade garage door opener (with 2^8 = 1024 possible frequencies, it is easy to iterate through the combinations to find the correct one to open the door). They proceeded to the vault, where they were able to bypass/disable three alarms/sensors: motion, sound, and a magnet inside the vault door. Once inside, the rest was easy. Using a specialized tool, the thieves were easily able to pry open a majority of the rather flimsy safety deposit boxes belonging to a variety of companies and individuals. The loot was varied: gemstones, watches, currency, securities/bonds, and personal effects. There was so much to steal that they had to leave a fair amount behind. Using a getaway car, they retreated to Notarbartolo's apartment to sift through their treasure, throwing out comparatively-worthless emeralds. The following morning, each member left separately (some in groups of two) to head back to Italy while the crime was being discovered only a small distance away. One member was tasked with disposing of the trash, which included some compromising materials. He chose what turned out to be one of the unluckiest spots in all of Belgium: a forest owned by a nothing-better-to-do-than-patrol-his-land-for-litterers man. (Not to say littering is acceptable, but dumping garbage in forests is common in Belgium and not many seem to care (according to the authors).) This was the downfall of the team. The detectives were immediately dispatched to the rural plot of land and were able to begin piecing together who was behind this expensive crime. After dividing their haul accordingly in the safety of Italy, Notarbartolo returned to Antwerp to tie up loose ends, unaware that he was the most-wanted man in the country. He was promptly detained along with his wife and friends, marking the beginning of his multi-year confinement (consisting of detainment and actual imprisonment). The authors briefly describe the Belgian legal system and prisons in this section. While in prison, Notarbartolo attempted to sell the rights to his story (emphasis discussed in next sentence) to multiple sources. "His" is highlighted because it varies wildly from both what the authors write here and what is probable/believable. The authors refute his account in the last section. The authors preface the book by describing their research method. Throughout the book, they are careful to denote hazy, non-established points, e.g. no one knows why the thieves did this, but here's why we think they did it, etc. Notes are detailed and well-documented for further reading or referencing. I see a few things wrong with the team's operation. First is the poor disposal of the garbage. To put everything together is sheer idiocy. Throwing it away in an unknown location doubles up on the foolishness. Too much of their heist was left up to blind luck (that was decreased to an extent): avoiding building guards or police, not knowing about a hidden sensor, and so on. They had over two years to prepare for the simple garbage disposal, yet failed in the worst possible way. Second is Notarbartolo's failure to place goods in his safety deposit box then proceed to rob himself (his box wasn't even opened!). He claimed that he took everything out beforehand, but even then that is suspicious. Instead, he should have placed a significant amount of material in there and simply pried open his, too. Third is their lack of Italian extradition laws. While these eventually changed under pressure from other European nations, resulting in the imprisonment of other members of the team, they would have all been safe for quite a long time had they just stayed in Italy. I suspect it would have also been more difficult to gather a case against them. Fourth, they should not have taken specifically-dated surveillance tapes, but rather all of them. This shifts focus off of those specific days and obscures the suspect list. Their disposal of the tapes was also subpar: they simply pulled them apart. Investigators were able to reconstruct them, furthering the evidence they had against the team. Surprisingly fundamental mistakes by a team intelligent enough to plan and execute a heist of this magnitude. Overall, I enjoyed this book. It reads similar to an Ocean's film, except it actually happened. Further reading/watching: * Ocean's series. Eleven, Twelve, and Thirteen are the original trilogy and worth watching for heist film fans. I haven't seen Ocean's Eight. * A Burglar's Guide to the City by Geoff Manaugh. My review here. * Exposing Brilliant Earth. The author describes Brilliant Earth's deceptive practices. In 2017, YouTuber Jacob Avital was sued for defamation by Brilliant Earth for a video he posted criticizing their practices (read: lying). His channel is no longer up. Coincidence? I think not. Links here and here. * The 10 Greatest Heists in History.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Rob

    Fascinating look at an epic heist. Read like a movie.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Elisha Condie

    This was certainly interesting, and entertaining. Leonardo Notarbartolo is a small time Italian crook and he, along with several crook buddies (who form an informal organization called the School of Turin) plan to rob a vault in Antwerp's Diamond District. Just like the cover says, it's all very "Ocean's Eleven". There's the electronics guy, the supply guy, the charismatic leader guy. And they are so close to getting away with it when just a couple of bad coincidences tie them to the crime. An This was certainly interesting, and entertaining. Leonardo Notarbartolo is a small time Italian crook and he, along with several crook buddies (who form an informal organization called the School of Turin) plan to rob a vault in Antwerp's Diamond District. Just like the cover says, it's all very "Ocean's Eleven". There's the electronics guy, the supply guy, the charismatic leader guy. And they are so close to getting away with it when just a couple of bad coincidences tie them to the crime. And the funny thing is, you really want them to get away with it. It's so shocking, and so unexpected that this vault in the Diamond District was robbed that you really root for the crooks (see - I told you it was like "Oceans Eleven"). So, Notarbartolo and a few other guys go to prison for a short stint, but never ever admit that they have the diamonds. The millions of dollars in diamonds are still missing to this day and the author points out that a few years in prison was probably worth it to them, since they will someday presumably be living in luxury off their diamond heist. The only slow parts of the book were when the authors exhaustively described the layout of the street and vault - it takes a lot of planning to rob a joint, did you know? Although after having read this book I feel like I have the know how to rob one of my own. Now - to just assemble a team. Anyone interested?

  19. 4 out of 5

    I

    This is perhaps one of my favorite books of all time. It's an entirely new experience to get in the head of a master criminal and see all the tactics they are willing to employ for one heist. Working in the office above the safes for half a decade so no one suspects him as a suspicious characer, using hairspray, masking tape and a piece of styrofoam to take out one of the best security systems in the country, and the one fatal flaw the gang made in their getaway that led to their eventual arrest This is perhaps one of my favorite books of all time. It's an entirely new experience to get in the head of a master criminal and see all the tactics they are willing to employ for one heist. Working in the office above the safes for half a decade so no one suspects him as a suspicious characer, using hairspray, masking tape and a piece of styrofoam to take out one of the best security systems in the country, and the one fatal flaw the gang made in their getaway that led to their eventual arrest. And the strangest part of this all? To this day the diamonds are still missing. A thrilling, complex, educational mystery with the added bonus of being a true story, this is a story everyone should read. Heavy on humor, psychology and small details that led to the discovery of a diamond thief, it is fascinating, and will keep you turning pages late into the night. I just adore this book so much. The true crime world, especially that of theft not murder, is barely touched on in the literary world, and this is perhaps the crown jewel of those works that exist. Everyone interested in crime, true stories, or if you just want the experience of following a professional thief around the diamond district and into the heart of the safes themself, and their attempts to flee from the law (this entire book pretty much follows the thieves, which is a cool experience) then read it. Just do it.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Somnath Banerjee

    This is a very interesting narrative of one of the most daring crime that ever too place, a diamond heist in early 2000. First the book gives a good background of the diamond industry, various operations involved in diamond mining to production and marketing -- which sets the stage for an informed reading. Although I visited Belgium myself, I never knew that Antwarp is the main center of diamond business, having the so-called "Diamond District" -- which was eventually targeted by a very smart gr This is a very interesting narrative of one of the most daring crime that ever too place, a diamond heist in early 2000. First the book gives a good background of the diamond industry, various operations involved in diamond mining to production and marketing -- which sets the stage for an informed reading. Although I visited Belgium myself, I never knew that Antwarp is the main center of diamond business, having the so-called "Diamond District" -- which was eventually targeted by a very smart group of thieves from Italy. The entire operation is described in probably too much detail, which sometimes drag the story. Nevertheless the heist is an almost impossible operation, planned meticulously with absolutely no scope for error. Equally astonishing is the way in which they finally got caught. The final phase describes the trial process and how finally the perpetrators got released after serving their terms. Overall a good read.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Michael O'Neill

    Fair to middlin'. What I thought was going to be an exciting thriller, advertised as "the largest diamond heist in history", was rather flat both in the story and in the telling. The details of the planning and the heist itself were described as if our "school of Turin" was a crew of plumbers off to replace the fixtures in a customer's bathroom. And to have the apparently successful heist come undone within twenty-four hours because the masterminds were careless about their trash was disappointi Fair to middlin'. What I thought was going to be an exciting thriller, advertised as "the largest diamond heist in history", was rather flat both in the story and in the telling. The details of the planning and the heist itself were described as if our "school of Turin" was a crew of plumbers off to replace the fixtures in a customer's bathroom. And to have the apparently successful heist come undone within twenty-four hours because the masterminds were careless about their trash was disappointing. Even I know to be careful of my credit card receipts before they get tossed into the kitchen waste basket. Even the authors seemed a little bored by the mechanics of the operation. Interesting, to a point, but definitely not thrilling.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Bridget

    A group of thieves pulled off a perfect robbery in 2003. The alarms didn't trip and no one was injured. Making it out with over one hundred million dollars in diamonds and jewels. The police were able to find out who the culprits were but they were baffled by how the heist went so smoothly. The big dog of the group was an Italian man named Leonardo who worked out of a Diamond Center office. Scott, a law graduate and Greg, an author, teamed up to find out what really happened during one of the mo A group of thieves pulled off a perfect robbery in 2003. The alarms didn't trip and no one was injured. Making it out with over one hundred million dollars in diamonds and jewels. The police were able to find out who the culprits were but they were baffled by how the heist went so smoothly. The big dog of the group was an Italian man named Leonardo who worked out of a Diamond Center office. Scott, a law graduate and Greg, an author, teamed up to find out what really happened during one of the most notorious robberies ever. This book is brilliantly written and reads like an awesome action movie. I'm a sucker for true crime and Flawless really is flawless.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Jay Rain

    Rating - 8.2 Having never read a crime scene re-enactment before, the genre works quite well & the details of the heist were interesting (also respecting where the authors indicate speculation versus known facts) To spend two years casing the Diamond Centre so diligently & then to lose it all to the garbage in the forest smells like a set-up; Five years for $500MM seems worth it & is scintillating dinner conversation

  24. 4 out of 5

    C.A.

    Turns out, real life theft isn't as slick as it is in Oceans Eleven, but is as interesting. Telling the story of the history of diamond trading as well as the modern diamond industry as well as the theft, and the hunt that lead to the arrest of four of the thieves. The heist took two years to plan and one mistake to get caught. Turns out, real life theft isn't as slick as it is in Oceans Eleven, but is as interesting. Telling the story of the history of diamond trading as well as the modern diamond industry as well as the theft, and the hunt that lead to the arrest of four of the thieves. The heist took two years to plan and one mistake to get caught.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Ken Eveleigh

    Excellent story of the planning and execution of the "crime of the century". Reconstructed through personal interviews, trial transcripts and extensive survey of the police evidence. A real life "Ocean's Eleven". Excellent story of the planning and execution of the "crime of the century". Reconstructed through personal interviews, trial transcripts and extensive survey of the police evidence. A real life "Ocean's Eleven".

  26. 4 out of 5

    Lori Paximadis

    I really enjoyed this well-told, suspenseful story of a real-life vault robbery and how it came together. Lots of interesting information here about the diamond business in general, too, as well as Antwerp's diamond district. I really enjoyed this well-told, suspenseful story of a real-life vault robbery and how it came together. Lots of interesting information here about the diamond business in general, too, as well as Antwerp's diamond district.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Bridget

    I really enjoyed this book, which was surprising considering I picked it out at random at the library. It's like a real-life Ocean's 11 story. I actually found myself feeling bad that the thieves got caught (but of course they did, or there wouldn't be a book about how they did it). I really enjoyed this book, which was surprising considering I picked it out at random at the library. It's like a real-life Ocean's 11 story. I actually found myself feeling bad that the thieves got caught (but of course they did, or there wouldn't be a book about how they did it).

  28. 4 out of 5

    Greg Pallett

    If you enjoyed Oceans 11, any of the punk panther movies or The Heist, you out to give this book a read. It's the story of one of (if not the largest) diamond/jewelry/money theft in history. If you enjoyed Oceans 11, any of the punk panther movies or The Heist, you out to give this book a read. It's the story of one of (if not the largest) diamond/jewelry/money theft in history.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Claudia

    On February 15, 2003, a group of Italian thieves broke into a vault in a sub-basement of the Antwerp Diamond Center, part of the ultra-secure Diamond District. When the theft was discovered two days later, 109 of the 189 deposit boxes had been broken into. The floor was covered with discarded gemstones, pearls, diamond papers, bags and sacks of many kinds as well as any jewelry or items that could be easily identified and difficult to fence. The book starts when Leonardo Notarbartolo rented an of On February 15, 2003, a group of Italian thieves broke into a vault in a sub-basement of the Antwerp Diamond Center, part of the ultra-secure Diamond District. When the theft was discovered two days later, 109 of the 189 deposit boxes had been broken into. The floor was covered with discarded gemstones, pearls, diamond papers, bags and sacks of many kinds as well as any jewelry or items that could be easily identified and difficult to fence. The book starts when Leonardo Notarbartolo rented an office in the Antwerp Diamond Center two years before the heist in order to quietly investigate and record security measures - like vault construction, keys, and various types of detectors within the vault - along with schedules of the on-site night concierges, access into the building (mostly by keycards but there was a door access to the garage that opened with a key); video monitoring practices and more. Then he would take the footage, drawings and information back to Italy, back to the so-called School of Turin, a nebulous crime ring supposedly centered in the Turin area. The solutions that the thieves came up with as well as the steps the detectives took in order to nail down their suspects is part investigate and part sheer luck. The extraneous containers from the vault along with diamond packets - one actually of tiny emerald pointers which static tossed about Notarbartolo's apartment - was disposed of in some forestland that was fanatically scoured by a neighbor and reported to the police. Notarbartolo actually went back to the apartment as well as the Diamond Center once the heist was discovered in order to 'cement' an alibi rather than immediately disappear. He and three others were identified - a fifth was suspected but his identify was never confirmed - and tried in Belgium - even in absentia since Italy at that time did not have an extradition treaty with Belgium. Eventually, all four served time in either Belgium or Italy and have been released. Many gaps were filled in when Notarbartolo consented to be interviewed after he was released from prison. He was found guilty so he could not be tried and convicted again but his story was more along the lines of a conspiracy of some diamond merchants - who had emptied their deposit boxes beforehand - in order to make insurance claims for the stolen merchandise. Unfortunately, very few were able to make claims since they either could not prove what was actually taken or they had no idea what was actually in the box at the time. No one will ever know exactly the value of what was stolen as it ranges from €100 - €400 million in diamonds, other gemstones, gold, platinum, silver, currency, bonds, jewelry and luxury goods. Some minor gemstones were recovered along with some hard-to-convert currencies but even to this day, the diamonds are still missing. Or rather, they have likely already had bare dusting of stone taken off in order to change their carat weight, re-certified and sold. Certainly the international police, especially in Italy and Belgium are watching the former thieves carefully for any sudden increase in funds. If this sounds a bit like a movie plot, think Ocean's Eleven. But this one was real and certainly didn't happen in two hours. And this is definitely for those true crime buffs. Selby did a great job of providing a riveting tale that seems too fantastic to be true but actually an in-depth study of the largest gem heist at its time. 2020-221

  30. 5 out of 5

    Kerstyn

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Having a bit of background in physical security, the book was not only interesting from a heist story perspective but also confirmed something that is always a bit funny about breaking into things: it’s usually done by surprisingly simple means because of some basic failures of security. Any single small thing such as clearing the combination lock or upgrading the motion detector camera could have made this either impossible or much more likely to go awry, to say nothing of a high security build Having a bit of background in physical security, the book was not only interesting from a heist story perspective but also confirmed something that is always a bit funny about breaking into things: it’s usually done by surprisingly simple means because of some basic failures of security. Any single small thing such as clearing the combination lock or upgrading the motion detector camera could have made this either impossible or much more likely to go awry, to say nothing of a high security building full of jewels running a simple background check on office renters. And of course, a single small mistake is all investigators may need to put together the timeline of what happened. (Or a big mistake, really.) The work background is not necessary for enjoyment of the book at all, just an added bonus for me personally. I also appreciate that the authors note what is supposition or contested retelling .

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