Do you love a good mystery? I do. The Antwerp Diamond Heist is one of the best and longest unsolved mysteries of our lifetime. It occurred in 2004 and is rather astonishing even today.

It is a weekend evening. 7 pm on Friday to be exact. It’s February so the darkness comes earlier too. Very few people were around.

Picture a quaint, yet upscale, section of town devoted to exquisite and timeless jewelry stored in locked safe deposit boxes held in a vault two stories below the street. The building was constructed of concrete. Security was always top-notch and regularly patrolled. Cameras were tracking all who came and went.  The door to this vault was metal and two feet thick and only able to be opened by executing a special code and inserting the key. Imagine how few people had access to that code and key. Safe? You tell me.

Besides the code and key, a magnet that tripped the alarm when the door was opened stood between any thieves and their potential booty. Sound like the storyline out of one of Ocean’s Eleven or so movies? I say possibly yes.  Only this is no movie. The alarm was not triggered and as such no police responded to the crime. Incredible right?

What happened? Let’s start with what we do know and work from there.

Monday morning the diamond traders went to their offices for work. When they went down to open the vault they noticed that they had been burgled. Can you imagine their surprise?

The morning quickly turned into chaos. Police finally responded, but there was no evidence that there had been a break-in despite the vault door being ajar and all of the opened safe deposit boxes missing their contents. There was so much to steal that the criminals could not take all that was housed in the vault.

The office called in their insurers. They did manage to get away with what was assessed to be about one hundred million dollars worth of gold and jewels. It was widely thought to be an inside job because it was so totally unbelievable.

Eventually, the police came up with a suspect. His name was Leonardo Notarbartolo. He was a tenant in the diamond district with a checkered past. He had a prior record of petty thefts and small burglaries. However, he could not have done this large of a job alone.

As the police ramped up the investigation of Notarbartolo they found that his routine had been disrupted the week before the heist. He was normally in town only once per month, but in the week before this plan was done, he was in town every day. And he was seen in the video footage as being near the vault every day too. This was highly suspicious.

What happened next?

The investigation revealed that on Saturday night after the supposed heist, the elevator down to the vault had been used by three people around midnight. The motion detectors had been sprayed with silicone or taped over disabling them. Nobody saw what occurred next.

The key to open the vault was kept in a box next to the vault. The thieves went over to the vault and took out the key. Next, they cracked the code, inserted the key, and had to deal with the magnets that set the alarm off as the doors opened. What did they do? How could this work?

They cut the bolts that kept the magnets together and taped them in place off to one side. Since the magnets did not separate the alarm did not trigger. It kept showing that it was active. Rather brilliant actually.

Ok, they were inside the vault, but they had to open the safe deposit boxes to get the booty. What did they do next?

The thieves were so detailed that they created a special tool to open each safe deposit box. They opened and opened and opened. They took the most valuable of what was held there and tossed the rest on the floor. They left as silently as they had come.

Police surmised that they must have had a homemade key that worked in every lock and door. They were even so devious as to take the videotapes from the security cameras to ensure that they would not be found. That takes balls!

They are believed to have exited the office complex from the underground parking lot that was a single block away from the baracades.

A possible clue was found in Notarbartolo’s own safe deposit box which was one of a few that had not been broken into. Upon opening his box the police found seventeen diamonds still sealed in plastic. These diamonds were matches for certificates left in the office. A week after the burglary he came back into the office and was apprehended. He revealed nothing.

A second team of detectives was sent to Notarbartolo’s home which was thirty miles away and where they watched his wife and children packing their car to make a clean getaway. They were detained while their apartment and surrounding area was searched. The detectives found a diamond in a rug, another in a bottle of wine, and a third one wrapped in a slice of salami in the yard nearby.

Notarbartolo was arrested. According to Belgium law he was not given more than five years in jail which was the minimum. Ten years was the maximum. To date the police have not been able to solve this crime or recover the hundreds of millions of dollars in jewels and gold.








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