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March 13, 2007 12:55 AM   Subscribe

About a week ago a man walked into a high security vault in Antwerp during normal business hours, loaded up with 24 kilograms of diamonds, and walked out with them. He wasn't named "Carlos Hector Flomenbaum". Police have no idea who he is or where he is, and a $2 million reward has been offered for tips on his whereabouts. Anyone seen Robert Wagner around recently?
posted by Steven C. Den Beste (44 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
I confess to just a bit of admiration for someone who can pull off such a brazen theft in broad daylight.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 12:58 AM on March 13, 2007


He's probably back in Israel. He's been in and out several times in the past few years.
posted by Sukiari at 1:27 AM on March 13, 2007


A bit, Steven? A BIT? I want to have this guy's babies.

Isn't it awesome how it's respectable to be a diamond thief? Steal cash from a bank? Not so glamorous. Diamonds from an elderly widow? You're golden. So to speak. Judging by the movies, it's a fairly desirable profession in Europe.

Also, "Carlos Hector Flomenbaum" sounds like a Pynchon character.
posted by brundlefly at 2:04 AM on March 13, 2007


Gary: Oh, don't worry, Mr. Simpson, we can take care of ourselves.
Snake: Uh, wallet inspector!
Benjamin: Oh, here you go. I believe that's all in order.
Snake: Wow, I can't believe that worked! (runs away)
Homer: Hey wait a minute… that's not the wallet inspector
posted by griphus at 2:22 AM on March 13, 2007


However, that trust is reinforced with heavy security — briefcases handcuffed to wrists, cameras filming the milling crowds from many angles, a special police station, and circles of steel pillars at both ends of the district.

In related news, rectal probes to become ordinary airport security routine. No updates on the stolen batch of chinese Stinger replicas.
posted by elpapacito at 2:23 AM on March 13, 2007


As I was reading this I found myself picturing a diamond thief a la Cary Grant, and I admit to getting a bit swoony. Until I came to this:

They said he speaks English with an American accent and often wears a baseball cap, and they are appealing to anyone who got to know him during his time in the city to come forward.

My money's on Rob Reiner. His glittering fame could not compete with his desire for the world's hardest substance.
posted by maryh at 2:29 AM on March 13, 2007 [2 favorites]


So clue me in here. What about all those articles telling me that diamonds make for extremely sucky loot, are virtually impossible to dump and are next to worthless unless they are coming onto market via an authorized De Beers channel?
posted by well_balanced at 2:38 AM on March 13, 2007


Robert Wagner and Jill St. John were spotted recording a radio show last weekend. Of course, they might have been using their doubles to throw the authorities off their trail.
posted by SteveInMaine at 2:58 AM on March 13, 2007


A few years back a thief pulled a similar trick in Amsterdam using a microwave box.
posted by swordfishtrombones at 3:19 AM on March 13, 2007


The story is pretty light on details.

I would hold off on the admiration until after he manages to convert the diamonds into cash. As it is he has what sounds like a bunch of hard to fence unique diamonds making up part of the haul. He will get cents on the dollar for them making his actual take much much smaller, his face will be well known and with a $2 million bounty there will be a lot of people willing to rat him out. Unless he is part of some sort of larger organization they have no reason not to.

He may have stones as hard as the ones he stole but I am not sure about brains. There are probably much better, anonymous ways to make a big illegal haul.

How exactly could he get into everybody else's deposits without anyone at the bank noticing? Inside help perhaps?
posted by srboisvert at 3:20 AM on March 13, 2007


I'd have to agree with many of srboisvert's points: the thief's days from here on out will probably be a kind of nightmare, on the lam and all, and they'll probably nab the guy sooner or later. But as for this:

There are probably much better, anonymous ways to make a big illegal haul.

Well, that's no doubt true as well, but the better, anonymous ways are just not as poetic. And I think this guy is a poet. He's an artist. And as we know, poets and artists are often driven by motivations beyond just money.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 3:32 AM on March 13, 2007


Who says he's going to try to turn the diamonds into cash? Maybe he's building a giant space laser to extract ransom from the UN.
posted by DU at 4:20 AM on March 13, 2007


DU writes "Who says he's going to try to turn the diamonds into cash? Maybe he's building a giant space laser to extract ransom from the UN."

Yes...one million dollars!!! *evil laugh*
posted by mullingitover at 4:28 AM on March 13, 2007


"So clue me in here. What about all those articles telling me that diamonds make for extremely sucky loot, are virtually impossible to dump and are next to worthless unless they are coming onto market via an authorized De Beers channel?"

I dunno, but if I was De Beers that's the kind of info I would be spreading.
posted by Captain Crusty's Zeppelin Repair Service at 4:34 AM on March 13, 2007


There are probably much better, anonymous ways to make a big illegal haul.

There are definitely much better, and completely nonymous ways to make a big legal haul.
posted by dgaicun at 4:37 AM on March 13, 2007


Read about the recent "Theft of the Century".
posted by dgaicun at 4:48 AM on March 13, 2007


Listen. Are you busy? I'll tell you the whole story. The Septuagint scholars mistranslated the Hebrew word for "young woman"... into the Greek word for "virgin".

It was an easy mistake to make because there was only a subtle difference in the spelling.

So, they came up with a prophecy:
"Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear us a son."
You understand? It was "virgin" that caught people's attention. It's not everyday a virgin conceives and bears a son.

But leave that for a couple of hundred years to stew... and next thing you know you have the Holy Catholic Church.

Oy vay, "what are you saying?"

I'm saying, just because it's written... doesn't make it so.
posted by dreamsign at 4:49 AM on March 13, 2007 [2 favorites]


Wait, so the supposed leader of the Largest Heist in History gets 7 hits on Google and his gang gets less than 20? Nearly all on irrelevant sites. Did nobody care about this story when it came out?
posted by dgaicun at 5:01 AM on March 13, 2007


What an amazing heist. I like the space laser idea, too.

I'm pretty sure the diamonds can be sold outside of de Beers channels, too -- why else would "blood diamonds" be such a big business? If there was no way to sell them, the wars in Sierra Leone and Liberia wouldn't have dragged on half as long.
posted by Forktine at 5:07 AM on March 13, 2007


Ha ha - the MSNBC link in the FPP plagiarises a paragraph from dgaicun's BBC link.
posted by stammer at 5:17 AM on March 13, 2007


> He will get cents on the dollar for them making his actual take much much smaller...

Using Idex Online's Diamond Index, and assuming he's only stolen half-carat rounds, the lowest-priced item the index lists, that's $2,809 per item, making his briefcase worth, at the very least, $48.8 million dollars (0.69 carat per item * 120,000). Since half-carat rounds only amount for 1.7% of the fine diamond market, it's unlikely to be worth that little by Idex's index.

(Smaller, cheaper diamonds are probably less risky to fence, earning him something closer to actual value. Larger diamonds will be harder to fence, but selling in small lots here and there will earn more and raise fewer suspicions than a large quantity would.)

If he gets ten cents on the dollar the theft makes him $5 million dollars richer, an excellent yield for a morning's effort. If he's stealing on commission -- what art thieves frequently do -- he's probably arranged a better payout than that. Why should he mind not being able to maximize it?
posted by ardgedee at 5:20 AM on March 13, 2007


Robert Wagner may have an alibi.
posted by metabrilliant at 5:28 AM on March 13, 2007


D'oh. I searched the page for "wagner" and everything, honest
posted by metabrilliant at 5:34 AM on March 13, 2007


srboisvert: There are probably much better, anonymous ways to make a big illegal haul.

dgaicun: There are definitely much better, and completely anonymous ways to make a big legal haul.

Any hint?
posted by bru at 5:48 AM on March 13, 2007


They could probably find him if they hushed and listened for the clanging of his brass balls.

Do I smell an Ocean's 14 plot a-brewing?
posted by i_am_a_Jedi at 6:14 AM on March 13, 2007


As I was reading this I found myself picturing a diamond thief a la Cary Grant, and I admit to getting a bit swoony. Until I came to this:

They said he speaks English with an American accent and often wears a baseball cap


Don't be fooled by his clever disguise. You and I both know that at this very moment, he's in Monte Carlo, dressed in an immaculate tuxedo, surveying the gaming tables with a cool and practiced eye. The blackjack dealer, Jacques, will hail him. "Monsieur X? Where 'ave you been? We 'ave not seen you since last year." And Monsieur X betrays no expression except for the hint of a sneer, a mere flicker of... could it be triumph? A look passes between the two men. "So....", says Jacques, slowly. "You 'ave 'eard about this latest? Antwerp.... diamonds?" and he shuffles his cards with expert hands, not meeting Monsieur X's eyes. Monsieur X allows himself a slight smile. "Have a drink, on me, Jacques", he says at last, with his unplaceable Continental accent, and waves his hand at the waiter hovering nearby.

As he walks away into the Casino, moving like a panther amongst the glittering crowd, Jacques raises his glass. "To you, Monsieur X", he says, with admiration. "To you."
posted by jokeefe at 6:19 AM on March 13, 2007 [7 favorites]


Points to you, jokeefe, for going with Blackjack. Casino Royale was great but spent far too much time looking like TNN's world series of poker.
posted by dreamsign at 6:33 AM on March 13, 2007


Yeah, a guy who steals valuable goods with no resale value sounds like exactly the sort of idiot who'd prefer blackjack.
posted by nebulawindphone at 7:03 AM on March 13, 2007


I swear, I was in South Africa at the time. And when I'm in Antwerp, I hang around by the cathedral, not the train station.
posted by Goofyy at 7:20 AM on March 13, 2007


Yeah, okay so Robert Wagner may have an alibi... but has anyone seen David Niven lately? Ah-HA! Didn't THINK so!

And here is this post's obligatory musical interlude in Italian. Enjoy.
posted by miss lynnster at 7:51 AM on March 13, 2007


Oooh! A giant LAAAASER! And uh... Robert Wagner?
posted by miss lynnster at 8:00 AM on March 13, 2007


Ahem, I was in Antwerp last week... I'd better get my story straight.
posted by pj_rivera at 9:37 AM on March 13, 2007


There was a bit on 60 minutes or one of those shows, showing how easy it was to sell diamonds for tons of cash.
They just had an african looking guy walk around the the diamond disctrict and in no time at all diamond merchants were inviting him in and offering cash for the un documented diamonds he had.
It was to illustrate how noone cared if the diamonds were blood diamonds, but I would think taht would work just as well for stolen ones.
posted by Iax at 10:14 AM on March 13, 2007


an excellent yield for a morning's effort.

It wasn't a morning's effort. According to the article he spent at least a year getting himself positioned to do this.
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:29 AM on March 13, 2007


I think the appeal of this kind of criminal comes from the craft involved.

Every day we hear about would be criminals who fail at even the most basic level. Then there are those who are willing to put others lives in harms way to get their ill gotten gains; the convenience store robbers and car-jackers and the like.

Whereas here we see someone who committed a year of his life to setting up his contacts and gaining access to the secure area. When he finally commits the crime, no one is aware of it till he's gone. No one is harmed, no one is sure exactly how he did it, or who he was. This kind of criminality takes discipline. And that is where the admiration comes from. Any one of us knows that we could pick up a gun and rob someone. We also know that we would probably fail, and that someone would end up getting hurt, and we would end up getting caught. It takes a special kind of criminal to go through this much trouble and still get away with it. We recognize that it requires a level of skill that we don't possess.

I have no doubt that the diamonds were selected intentionally. You don't go through that much work to not already have a buyer on hand. My guess is that he's long gone and now quite wealthy.
posted by quin at 11:55 AM on March 13, 2007 [4 favorites]


It's just a plain fact of human nature. Specifics aside, when someone is really, really good at something, displays incredible skill/brains beyond the norm and maintains a cool demeanor/confidence to succeed when most others would fold or fail? Well, that's just white hot sexy. That's all there is to it.

If he gets caught & put into prison? Well for me that's a LOT less sexy but for some women that does the trick too.
posted by miss lynnster at 12:46 PM on March 13, 2007


> It wasn't a morning's effort. According to the article he spent at least a year getting himself positioned to do this.

Working for five million dollars for one year hardly sounds worthwhile, does it?
posted by ardgedee at 1:11 PM on March 13, 2007 [1 favorite]


I sell diamonds for a living and I find this very cool. Exactly what quin said above. The patience, the skill set, the fact that no one was hurt; makes it all very sexy.
posted by CCK at 2:14 PM on March 13, 2007


Very sexy?

You've gotta be kidding.

By the time an anal-retentive like that goes through the perfect fuck in his mind one hundred thousand times before even starting out for first base, anybody in their right mind would have jumped long before to rougher-and-readier partners.
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:59 PM on March 13, 2007


Huh? Finding a diamond thief's style white hot sexy has very little to do with the reality of actually fucking the guy.
posted by miss lynnster at 9:36 PM on March 13, 2007


oh, so only white-hot sexy figuratively, then.

or, in other words, nothing to do with sex at all.
posted by UbuRoivas at 9:43 PM on March 13, 2007


So to sum up, when looking for a clever criminal mind, slow and methodical is a good thing. When looking for sex, maybe not so much.

But you can't dispute the idea that a skilled craft is sexy. Especially when it's outside of the law. We as humans seem to be drawn to the deviant, because the deviant needs to be clever and quick and/ or charming to stay ahead of his/ her deeds.

The old saying is worth repeating here; You want to marry Mary-Ann, but you want to fuck Ginger. It's the human condition, writ large and syndicated.
posted by quin at 10:08 PM on March 13, 2007


You want to marry Mary-Ann, but you want to fuck Ginger. It's the human condition

Perhaps you are new to the internet.

Ginger would be one of a hundred models on TNA.com, special offer now, only $3.99 for a whole month.
Mary-Ann would have her own site, a monster server to handle the traffic, and wouldn't have to do a quarter of the things Ginger does to get and maintain a client base.

Actually, I guess you are maybe new to the 90's. Which are old, dude.

but on preview, what miss lynnster said.
posted by dreamsign at 11:31 PM on March 13, 2007 [1 favorite]


his face will be well known and with a $2 million bounty there will be a lot of people willing to rat him out.

In my mind, a guy who's willing to spend a year getting in place to steal diamonds would also be a master of disguise. Perhaps he was wearing all kinds of latex face-altering gear and a wig every time he left his home for the past year, so now he can just go back to being himself. Maybe he's not even a HE at all!

Also, I watch too many movies.
posted by vytae at 11:27 AM on March 14, 2007


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