Is the robbery of ‘Money Heist’ real? All the best *real* heists in recent history
Fans of heist shows and movies rejoiced when confronted with the ultimate exemplar of the genre, as a team of crack crooks take on the meta-heist to crush all future heist concepts in breakout Spanish series Money Heist (La Casa de Papel): the Royal Bank of Spain. And instead of simply stealing stuff, the cadre takes over the mint and prints their own euros. Millions, in fact.
The Professor’s devilish plan involves public perception, mobile comms arrays, and keeping your enemies (the cop in charge of hostage negotiations) even closer than your friends. He gets more than he bargained for when he falls in love with her for real, however. The recent third part sees the team reassemble for a more traditional, though equally governmental, target: the gold in the vault of the Bank of Spain.
At least two more parts are on their way, and since our fingernails are already chewed down to their nubs, it’s time to regale you with heists IRL so we don’t lose our collective minds in anticipation. As to whether Money Heist is based on a true story – no. But the creative team took inspiration from real-life details such as “Bella Ciao”, an antifascist anthem, and the team’s Salvador Dali masks.
Money Heist will surely draw upon actual crimes even more to inspire its heights of heist technique to come. To help Money Heist‘s creative team come up with concepts, below is our list of all-time colorful and amazing real-life heists.
Nihon Shintaku Ginko bank armored van swindle (1968)
Armed guards moving $817,520 in yen to Nihon Shintaku Ginko bank in a routine cash run got pulled over by a young police officer in 1968. Apparently, their branch manager’s house had been attacked with explosives. A tip came in that even more explosives were planted in their armored van, so he was there to get them to safety and inspect it.
The guards allowed the policeman to inspect their van’s undercarriage for bombs. Sure enough, smoke began pouring out from beneath the truck, so the armed guards naturally cleared the area in an abundance of safety. At that point the police officer took the driver’s seat and moved off with the cash, never to be seen again. Turns out he wasn’t a member of the force at all, but an imposter. No one ever found him or the money.
We can imagine such a quick armored van gig would perform admirably as a warmup or distraction for the main heist event of a future Money Heist season, and fit in perfectly with the misdirection for which The Professor is famous.
The biggest mystery in air piracy history: D.B. Cooper (1971)
The most legendary unsolved case of airplane hijacking of all time was perpetrated by a calm gentleman in a black tie in the Pacific Northwest going by the name Dan Cooper.
Soon after takeoff from Portland and a quick bourbon & water, the middle-aged man held passengers and crew ransom with an apparent bomb in his suitcase, demanding they land in Seattle to hand over a civilian parachute and $200,000 in cash (more than a cool million in 2020 USD). This went off without a hitch, and all the passengers were released and he paid for his two bourbons and soda with tip once the hijacker’s demands in Seattle had been met.
Next, “Cooper” instructed the pilot and remaining skeleton crew to head south for Mexico City at a low speed and altitude while locking themselves in the cockpit. Half an hour later, the man was gone with his suitcase and two parachutes. Despite 60 volumes of evidence collected, the case remained unsolved until being closed in 2016.
Airline hijinx (whether hijacking or not) would be a great next step for the Professor’s team, and we bet Tokyo would look hot af in a parajumper getup.
Half a billion swiped from Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (1990)
Isabella Stewart Gardner was a 19th-century art patron founded her museum in Boston in 1903. Famous paintings by famous 19th-century artists like Rembrandt, Manet, and Vermeer deck its storied walls.
Burglars obviously saw a contrast between the highly valuable collection of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum and its security apparatus. They posed as policemen in response to a distress call they likely caused themselves and stole thirteen pieces one spring evening. These thirteen pieces were a big loss to the Gardner collection, totaling more than half a billion dollars in value at current estimations. To this day, the heisters have never been found.
Given The Professor’s classy approach, an art heist might figure into a larger plan. But art isn’t very liquid, and the target would have to be genuinely corrupt or evil for his to bother. We can imagine an art theft could motivate a villain into making a bad move out of desperation or revenge.
The diamonds of Antwerp (2003)
Belgium’s Antwerp Diamond Centre likely experienced a full security system and staff overhaul after a team penetrated its underground vault, making off with the majority of the safes’ riches without setting off a single alarm. So clean, in fact, was this heist (or so incompetent its guards) that the security team was totally unaware of the theft until 24 hours later. While the ringleader was convicted, he never gave up his colleagues or their techniques.
The Money Heist part 3 gold heist is rather similar to this style of target, though once again they are not trying to prevent detection at all, rather turning the incompetence of Spain’s police and intelligence forces against themselves. But deception and misdirection are the name of the game, and we could see a totally undetected side heist going off without a hitch while the feds are distracted with the main gold robbery.
Tunnel into Brazil’s Banco Central (2005)
$70 million in cash was the target of a successful heist of Brazil’s central bank which involved its team not only digging a tunnel from a house in central Fortaleza to the vault, but which ended in penetrating over a meter of steel-reinforced concrete. Some arrests and even deaths have followed the escapade, but to date dozens on the team remain at large and only a few million of the prize has been recovered.
Tunnels are second nature for The Professor’s solid team, although once again Money Heist differs from regular heists in that preventing detection is the last thing on their minds.
Smash and grab at Brent Cross Jewels (2012)
This one stands out just like Money Heist in that the perpetrators weren’t trying to hide their theft in the slightest. These hoodlums jumped off their motorcycles, entered the luxury jewel store in London with simple clubs and axes, and smashed every case open the old-fashioned way (brute force). The technique worked: the bikers snagged over £2 million in diamonds, Rolexes, and the famous Jane Seymour “Forever Heart” pendants.
A straightforward bull-in-a-china-shop-style robbery would be the perfect cover for a segment of The Professor’s gang, falling as it does so far outside their normal bailiwick of meticulous planning and millimeter execution. Talk about a great diversion!
Gemstone theft at the Carlton International Hotel (2013)
Fittingly for the popular French Riviera filming location, the Carlton International Hotel was the scene of a major crime when a single cat burglar swiped over a hundred million bucks worth of jewels and jewelry. Subsequently, the Carlton recognized its gem and watch exhibit was understaffed by security, making it an unbeatable target for the skilled thief, who has never been caught.
A properly posh jewel heist would be just the thing to get the Money Heist crew out of their red jumpsuits and into some killer eveningwear. The glamor of a tuxedo- and gown-laden affair would be just the thing to mix it up for future seasons of Money Heist.
Gold heist at the São Paulo Airport (2019)
Last year, $30 million of gold in planes planning to transport their payload to Switzerland and New York was stolen by a couple guys – once again, dressed as police officers. It’s amazing what a simple uniform and badge will accomplish (as we saw in the armored getaway van in Money Heist part 2). Airport employees were so convinced, in fact, that they did all the work loading the gold into the robbers’ fake cop cars.
We haven’t heard much about it since last summer, so it’s safe to assume Brazilian authorities don’t know who pulled it off quite yet. But less than a month later, thieves overpowered a security guard in the Mexico City Casa de Moneda and made off with $2.5 million in gold coins and other valuables.
Given The Professor’s willingness to screw with the Spanish police force, imitating them would hardly be the sincerest form of flattery. In fact, such a move could be just the way to hamstring the Money Heist team’s traditional foe.