The biggest cash heist in American history took place in Los Angeles, California, on September 12, 1997. Six armed robbers held up LA’s major armored car depot, where all armored cars pick up and drop off their cargo, during the Dunbar Armored Robbery, which occurred just after midnight. It was a well-planned, seemingly perfect operation. Six boyhood friends from the adjacent Long Beach, California, one of whom was the Dunbar regional safety inspector, drove off with $18.9 million in cash after the job was over. Sadly (for the criminals), one of their getaway car’s taillights broke off right there on the spot. The taillight belonged to a 14-foot U-Haul vehicle that had been hired the day before in Long Beach under one of the robbers’ real names, according to information obtained by FBI investigators. After that, the case swiftly came to light, leading to the arrest of all six thieves, their convictions, and their subsequent sentences of decades in federal prison.
To sum up, six heavily-armed guys who expertly carried out a plan were needed for the greatest cash theft in US history. They eventually managed to escape (temporarily) with $18.9 million in cash. Therefore, one can only speculate as to what was necessary to carry out THE LARGEST cash heist of all time, one in which over $1 billion in cash was taken from a bank.
According to what I’ve seen in movies, a veritable army of men armed with dozens of firearms, helicopters, and maybe a tank were needed to pull off the biggest heist ever. In truth? A handwritten note, 100 metal boxes, and three vehicles were all that were needed to take more than $1 billion in cash. Oh, and it also helped that the bank they were stealing was the Central Bank of Iraq and that one of the two guys carrying out the robbery had the last name “Hussein.”
Images by Karim Mohsen/Getty
You guessed it—Qusay Hussein was the second child of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. Qusay Hussein, who was born on May 16, 1966, led a much quieter existence than his more notoriously aggressive older brother, Uday Hussein. For almost three decades, Uday, an evil sociopath, raped and pillaged Iraq. Uday was known for abducting young women from the Baghdad streets. They would be taken back to his palace, where he would rape them. Over 1200 opulent cars, valuable jewels, priceless works of art, and more could be found at his mansion.
That doesn’t mean Qusay was an angel, either. In fact, the complete opposite. Qusay is thought to have personally ordered the execution of tens of thousands of political activists and Shiite Iraqis while serving as the leader of the Iraqi Republican Guard. perhaps more He also oversaw the irrigation of the southern marshes of Iraq. While doing so may seem benign, he forced over 100,000 Shiites who had long relied on the wetlands to leave.
Bush informs the world on March 17 that “Within 48 hours, Saddam Hussein and his sons must go from Iraq. If they refuse, we will start a military battle when it is convenient for us.” The entire Hussein family might have at this moment transferred their belongings to any country that would have accepted them. Once accepted, the Husseins easily would have gone on to live as fabulously wealthy expats with enormous bank accounts, mansions, yachts, servants, cars, jewelry, harems and all the rest. They most likely could have relocated to Switzerland. The only nation to publicly extend an invitation was Bahrain. After Bush’s press conference, Saddam made his first appearance on Iraqi national TV since the 1991 Gulf War, refusing to take the blue pill. He instructed his generals to get ready for battle during the appearance.
The Baghdad Presidential Palace is the target of airstrikes by coalition forces on March 19.
On March 20, ground forces from the coalition departed Kuwait to launch the invasion of Iraq from the southern Basra Province.
The Largest Bank Heist In History
One extremely important event is missing from the timeline above. On March 17, at nine o’clock PST, Bush made his “48-hour ultimatum” speech. On March 18 at 8 a.m., Baghdad time, that was. Locals spotted “three or four huge vehicles” come up in front of the main branch of the Central Bank of Iraq a little more than an hour after Bush finished speaking. Witnesses saw Qusay Hussein and Saddam’s personal assistant Abid al-Hamid Mahmood, get out of one of those trucks and disappear into the bank.
Bank employees, assisted by Qusay’s armed guards, spent the next five hours loading an endless supply of metal boxes stuffed to the brim with stacks of $100 dollar bills, into the trucks. The burglars drove off after carefully counting, sorting, and rolling all the cash out to the truck in a box. Nothing was shot. Nobody drew a weapon. One of the least violent bank robberies in history, I believe.
On that particular day, Qusay and his companion stole $1.04 billion in cash from the bank. This event is considered the largest bank robbery of all time.
Unfortunately, the Husseins didn’t benefit all that much from the enormous cash windfall. Qusay and Uday were both murdered on July 22, 2003, in a battle with US troops at a home in the northern city of Mosul. In exchange for disclosing their location, the owner of the house they were hiding out in eventually won US citizenship and a $30 million bounty.
Saddam would remain on the run until his capture on December 13, 2003. Saddam was found hiding at a farmhouse near his birth city of Tikrit. Saddam was taken right away to a U.S. base in Baghdad. He was found guilty on November 5 after going on trial for war crimes in June 2004. As of December 30, 2006, he was hung.
So what happened to the $1 billion in cash???
In the end, the funds didn’t get very far. On April 20, 2003, troops from the US Army’s Third Infantry Division raided one of Saddam’s palaces outside of Baghdad. One of the soldiers discovered a hole in what turned out to be a fake wall while conducting a sweep of the palace. He noticed dozens of those metal containers peering back at him on the other side of that makeshift barricade.
The Army’s senior finance officer, Major Rod King, oversaw the accounting and securing of the funds. He stated:
But wait, what about the rest of the stolen money???
You may remember that Qusay withdrew $1.04 billion. $661 million was found by Third Infantry. Where are the remaining $379 million? It’s been 18 years since the money was first stolen from the Central Bank of Iraq and, as of this writing, not a single dollar of the missing $379 million has been recovered.
And if that weren’t insane enough, the Pentagon confessed in January 2012 that it had lost $100 million of the $661 million that had been discovered in 2003. The $100 million vanished without a trace, according to the Special Inspector General’s office of the Department of Defense, as a result of a “records management blunder.” Whoops.
In the meantime, there are undoubtedly a few retired troops in America hiding a tidy little cash windfall under the porch.
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