Flawless: Inside the Largest Diamond Heist in History

Flawless: Inside the Largest Diamond Heist in History

3.6 334
by Scott Andrew Selby, Greg Campbell
     
 

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The heist of the century!

Ten years before the recent Brussels diamond theft, daring diamond thieves made off with gems worth almost twice as much. On February 15, 2003, thieves broke into an allegedly airtight vault in Antwerp, never tripping an alarm, and made off with over $108 million worth of diamonds and other valuables.

Although the crime was

…  See more details below

Overview

The heist of the century!

Ten years before the recent Brussels diamond theft, daring diamond thieves made off with gems worth almost twice as much. On February 15, 2003, thieves broke into an allegedly airtight vault in Antwerp, never tripping an alarm, and made off with over $108 million worth of diamonds and other valuables.

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 a mystery.

Scott Andrew Selby, a Harvard Law grad and diamond expert, and Greg Campbell, author of Blood Diamonds, embarked on a global chase to uncover the true story behind the stunning heist. Tracking the threads of the crime 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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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Campbell, the author of Blood Diamonds, teams with fellow blood diamond expert and lawyer Selby for a fascinating chronicle of the $108 million theft at the Antwerp Diamond Center on February 15, 2003. Documenting every detail, they begin with Leonardo Notarbartolo, who rented an office in the Diamond Center, from which, over a two-year period, he surveyed all angles of the supposedly impenetrable subterranean vault. His photos were used by his Italian partners in crime to construct a replica rehearsal vault. The theft was “devastating and embarrassing” for the diamond district and threatened the city’s major industry. In reconstructing the heist and aftermath, the authors take the reader through every step to show how the thieves were able to get past 10 layers of security, including surveillance cameras, electronic sensors, and a double-locked foot-thick steel door. Although the authors encountered “conflicting details, divergent opinions, and incongruous theories,” numerous interviews (including with Notarbartolo in prison) and key documents enabled them to assemble a “triangulation of facts from reliable sources.” Like a finely cut gem, this well-polished, multifaceted book sparkles. Maps. (Feb. 2)
Library Journal
Attorney and diamond expert Selby and journalist Campbell (Blood Diamonds: Tracing the Deadly Path of the World's Most Precious Stones) have meticulously pieced together the planning and execution of the heist of the 21st century. In February 2003, a group of Italian thieves made off with somewhere between $108 and 432 million worth in diamonds, other gems, and cash, managing to bypass the security, including video cameras, an iron and steel vault door, magnetic locks, and motion, light, and heat sensors of the heavily patrolled and watched Antwerp (Belgium) Diamond Center. Spoiler alert: the crime was solved quickly thanks to the vigilance of the caretaker of a nearby preserved forest, who discovered trash dumped by the thieves the very next morning. By the time alleged ringleader Leonardo Notarbartolo returned to the center a week later to swipe in and out of the office he had rented there to throw off suspicion, he was already the prime suspect and was quickly arrested. He and three others were caught and convicted—but most of the loot was never recovered. VERDICT Fans of true crime (especially those who appreciate less violence and no gore) and of crime caper movies will especially enjoy this fun romp.—Karen Sandlin Silverman, Ctr. for Applied Research, Philadelphia
Kirkus Reviews
Exciting, well-crafted tale of the "School of Turin," a gang of master thieves who looted the putatively theft-proof Antwerp Diamond Center. Selby and Campbell (Blood Diamonds: Tracing The Deadly Path of the World's Most Precious Stones, 2002, etc.) provide an engrossing nonfiction thriller with a truly improbable story at its center, but they also provide a colorful look at the shadowy world of the diamond trade-how they're graded, sold, secured and stolen. In February 2003, the prim staff of the Diamond Center-a supposedly impregnable fortress at the heart of that city's ultra-secure "Diamond Square Mile"-found their vault had been looted over the weekend, with discarded gems piled on the floor. The heist was the product of two years' worth of planning by the storied School of Turin, a near-mythical fraternity of secretive jewel thieves based in an Italian city known for its clever criminals. The authors initially focus on the gang's "inside man," Leonardo Notarbartolo, who brazenly rented an office in the complex, then spent endless hours casing it, using tricks like a hidden video camera in the vault-one of the book's strengths is the attention to the minutiae of the heist. The Diamond Center's various defenses proved no match for the gang, whose specialists patiently analyze the various alarms, cameras, locks and sensors guarding the vault. The actual heist went smoothly, but the thieves miscalculated terribly afterward, throwing away incriminating trash in a forest patrolled by a ranger obsessed with littering. When Notarbartolo returned to the Diamond Center to allay suspicion, the cops were waiting for him. He served six years in prison, but almost none of the estimated $500million in loot was recovered. Many readers will agree that "their capture and incarceration for the largest diamond heist in history seems to have been well worth the price they paid." Selby and Campbell offer an effective, well-researched collaboration, in which the classic heist story illustrates the seamy underbelly and criminal lure behind the bright facade of the diamond industry. Sure to appeal to armchair rogues and, like Blood Diamond, cinema-ready.
Publishers Weekly - Library Journal
Starred Review.

Two experts on diamonds-Selby wrote his master's thesis on them, Campbell authored Blood Diamonds: Tracing the Deadly Path of the World's Most Precious Stones-turn in a top-notch true-crime read while dissecting the plot, the payoff, and the post-op investigation of a group of professional thieves who ripped off a supposedly impregnable vault in Antwerp, the heart of the world's diamond trade. As Selby and Campbell probe the personalities and mechanics behind the 2003 heist, readers will learn plenty about diamonds, their value and handling, the ubiquitous black market, the history of De Beers, the intricacies of insurance, and the safeguards (or lack thereof) meant to secure a constant flow of cut and uncut diamonds. Readers will also become familiar with the elite fraternity of thieves determined to carry out the impossible crime, known as the "School of Turin," and it's hard not to root for them. The minutiae of the preparation, the drama of the robbery, and the details of the investigation are all equally fascinating, supplying myriad surprises all the way through the machinations of the Belgium justice system (even now, the loot is still at large). Like a diamond, this true-life caper is clear, colorful, and brilliant. 24 b&w illus.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From the Publisher
Praise for Flawless: “Fans of caper books and movies will be in seventh heaven here.  …A must-read for true-crime fans.”
Booklist (Starred Review)
 
 “…a riveting narrative…” —Boston Globe
 

"...a fascinating chronicle...Like a finely cut gem, this well-polished, multifaceted book sparkles." --Publishers Weekly 
 
"Fans of true crime (especially those who appreciate less violence and no gore) and of crime caper movies will especially enjoy this fun romp." --Library Journal

"Exciting, well-crafted tale...Selby and Campbell (Blood Diamonds: Tracing The Deadly Path of the World's Most Precious Stones, 2002, etc.) provide an engrossing nonfiction thriller...an effective, well-researched collaboration, in which the classic heist story illustrates the seamy underbelly and criminal lure behind the bright facade of the diamond industry. Sure to appeal to armchair rogues and, like Blood Diamond, cinema-ready." -- Kirkus Reviews 

“Part whodunit, part mob tell-all, part diamond underworld reportage, Flawless is simply too good to miss.” —Ulrich Boser, author of The Gardner Heist

“With Flawless, Scott Andrew Selby and Greg Campbell take the genre of true crime to a new level. Reading it, you realize that sometimes reality can be more fantastic than most action films.”—Douglas Preston and Mario Spezi, New York Times bestselling authors of The Monster of Florence

“The first ‘must-be-read-with-popcorn’ book ever. Selby and Campbell’s propulsive and cinematic narrative shimmers with truth, hubris and knowing details. I loved it.”—Gregg Olsen, New York Times bestselling author of Starvation Heights

“That real life often outdoes fiction is no longer surprising, but when a true story is brilliantly told, it's a discovery worth shouting about. Flawless will leave you gasping as the authors gradually peel back the covers on one of the most audacious acts of high stakes mischief in the history of thievery.”—Lee Gruenfeld, co-author of Confessions of a Master Jewel Thief

“In Flawless, Selby and Campbell expertly dissect this audacious crime in a compellingly expansive investigation ranging from the intricacies of the diamond industry to the history of the mob in Italy. A story that could have been ripped from the pages of a movie script but which is rooted in fact, Flawless is a rare true crime story—a real diamond in the rough.”—Julian Rubinstein, author of Ballad of the Whiskey Robber

“[D]azzling. Scott Andrew Selby and Greg Campbell take us into the minds of top-drawer jewel thieves who view every lock as a challenge, every cop as a fool and everyone else’s diamonds as their own birthright. Handle with discretion—you might be up all night reading.”—Tom Zoellner, author of The Heartless Stone and Uranium

Flawless is flawless. This is a one-hundred carat gem of a book. Flawless is an incredible, true, page-turning account of a half-billion dollar diamond robbery—the boldest, most daring diamond theft in the world.”—J. North Conway, author of King of Heists

“The gripping story of an incredible crime. This tale of old-fashioned criminal enterprise has been told with a level of research that immerses you in a fascinating journey into the hidden world of diamond trading.”—Neil Forsyth, author of Other People's Money

“You could not invent a better crime story. From the very first step into that ransacked vault, Selby and Campbell have you.” —Kevin Krajick, author of Barren Lands

“A thoroughly modern and riveting tale of the world's biggest diamond heist.  With vivid storytelling and fascinating detail, Selby and Campbell piece together every step of mastermind Leonardo Notarbartolo's plan, and the investigation that left detectives dumbfounded.  Full of intrigue and suspense, Flawless is a terrific read.”—Gilbert King, author of The Execution of Willie Francis

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781402779152
Publisher:
Union Square Press
Publication date:
02/02/2010
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
336
Sales rank:
234,164
File size:
1 MB

What People are saying about this

Douglas Preston
"With Flawless, Scott Andrew Selby and Greg Campbell take the genre of true crime to a new level. Reading it, you realize that sometimes reality can be more fantastic than most action films."--(Douglas Preston and Mario Spezi, New York Times bestselling authors of The Monster of Florence)
Julian Rubinstein
"In Flawless, Selby and Campbell expertly dissect this audacious crime in a compellingly expansive investigation ranging from the intricacies of the diamond industry to the history of the mob in Italy. A story that could have been ripped from the pages of a movie script but which is rooted in fact, Flawless is a rare true crime story-a real diamond in the rough."--(Julian Rubinstein, author of Ballad of the Whiskey Robber)
Lee Gruenfeld
"That real life often outdoes fiction is no longer surprising, but when a true story is brilliantly told, it's a discovery worth shouting about. Flawless will leave you gasping as the authors gradually peel back the covers on one of the most audacious acts of high stakes mischief in the history of thievery."--(Lee Gruenfeld, co-author of Confessions of a Master Jewel Thief)
Tom Zoellner
"[D]azzling. Scott Andrew Selby and Greg Campbell take us into the minds of top-drawer jewel thieves who view every lock as a challenge, every cop as a fool and everyone else's diamonds as their own birthright. Handle with discretion-you might be up all night reading."--(Tom Zoellner, author of The Heartless Stone and Uranium)
Gregg Olsen
"The first 'must-be-read-with-popcorn' book ever. Selby and Campbell's propulsive and cinematic narrative shimmers with truth, hubris and knowing details. I loved it."--(Gregg Olsen, New York Times bestselling author of Starvation Heights)
Ulrich Boser
"Part whodunit, part mob tell-all, part diamond underworld reportage, Flawless is simply too good to miss."--(Ulrich Boser, author of The Gardner Heist)

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Flawless: Inside the Largest Diamond Heist in History 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 334 reviews.
Jane_Moore More than 1 year ago
flawless was a delight to read. the cover shimmered with the colors of the rainbow and the prose inside brought to life the daring escapades of a group of high end cat burglars. if you like a good heist, you'll love flawless...
BookLover272 More than 1 year ago
Reading this book is like watching a heist film. I read it straight through as soon as I got and even read the notes section at the end. I loved Ocean's 11 and I loved this book even more.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Author does a great job creating a narrative around a true event! Really interesting details about the places, players, and actual crime... Reads nicely. Plus, I got it for FREE XD.... And to the reviewer complaining about getting charged, you most likely missed the promotion (I think it was a daily, and thus one day only...) and didn't realize it. Not a reason to down rate the book!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Yes it does require credit card info but you will not be charged. Also I have read the interview that was in the Wired magazine a few months ago about this heist and I was hooked. This book is just a great extension to that article!
Batgirl22 More than 1 year ago
good read!
Colorado_Native More than 1 year ago
The topic is a puzzle waiting for solution. The writers do an incredible amount of research and follow-up. There are times where the story slows due to explanations and side stories. These are interesting, just slows getting to the solution. I enjoyed the bibliography almost as much as the main story due to the "insider" approach the writers took. This book would be excellent for book clubs as a variety of readers would provide a good discussion because some details in the story could be overlooked---there are lots of details. Overall, it was an interesting story and well-written.
LegalBeagle More than 1 year ago
Until February 15, 2003, the Antwerp Diamond Center in Brussels Belgium was considered an impenetrable fortress. And with good reason as it is located within Belgium's version of Fort Knox: the Diamond District which is secured with vehicle barriers, 24/7 video surveillance, armed patrols, and two police stations. On February 16, 2003, however, the world learned the truth when the School of Turin carried out the greatest heist in history! Flawless by Scott Andrew Selby and Greg Campbell, reveals in exquisite detail how the thieves used cunning rather than brute force to pull off the caper. For over 27 months, career jewelry thief, Leonardo Notarbartolo, the identified ring leader (although the true leader may still be unidentified), and his Italian cronies planned the job even the Mafia passed on. Posing as a legitimate diamond dealer, Notarbartolo rented an office in the Diamond Center so that he could observe, videotape, and analyze the minutia that would result in the most expensive theft in history. As the authors note: The slow pace and tedium of planning a heist is something most Hollywood movies rarely depict. Heist films never show the frustration of needing to wait a month or more to get a critical piece of information from the inside man, such as confirmation on the number of security guards who work during the day. They don't show the gnawing fear that something is being overlooked, or that their ideas might not work. And they don't show the interminable hours staring at blueprints and watching videotapes over and over and drawing a blank. Thanks to Flawless, however, the truth behind the headlines is exposed. With everyday items such as hairspray, Styrofoam, duct tape, combined with precise planning the thieves managed to abscond with anywhere from with a108 million to 432 million dollars in diamonds. The exact figure remains unknown because many of the victims did not disclose their losses. Flawless is a not-to-be-missed entertaining and exciting true crime book! Publisher: Union Square Press (February 2, 2010), 336 pages. Review Copy Provided Courtesy of the Publisher.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Thought this would be an interesting book when I saw it as the Free Friday book so was intrigued to start reading it. Started out well, detailed but not to a point of distraction and then it dropped fast. The description of how long it takes to plan something of this magnitude was a lesson in patience and simplicity of tools that they created to complete the task at hand. But once the whole caper was over it unraveled fast - not just for the thieves but for this reader as well. Could not wait to finish and move on to another book. Would recommend to readers interested in learning about the diamond biz but not to someone looking for a good read about major crimes.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Amazing story that keeps you wondering "how'd they do that" but then lays it out for you. What is so incredible is that this is a true story. This makes it a more exciting read then even some of the most intense fiction of the "heist" genre suchas the "italian job" or "oceans 11".
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Fascinating inside look at a giant diamond heist: real-life Ocean's Eleven.
mountain_and_the_sea More than 1 year ago
Flawless: Inside the Largest Diamond Heist in History was my first foray into the true crime genre, and I was definitely not disappointed. Flawless was extremely well-researched, but I never felt bogged down  by facts or statistics; on the contrary, the narrative nonfiction style in which it was written made the novel read like a heist film. Even the side stories and lengthy explanations didn't slow the story down; it only helped the reader understand the length in which these diamond thieves had to go through in order to pull off the biggest jewelry heist in history. In all, Flawless lives up to its name - the pace was fast-moving, the prose was fantastic, and the story was gripping.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A well written book of an heist that no one thought could happen......but yet it did. Once you start reading this book you will not put it down as the suspense is truly riviting as it takes you through an astonishing chain of events. At times I during the read it seemed like I was there.
Patrico More than 1 year ago
Flawless takes place in modern day society where technology is important in everyday life. The book follows a group of modern day professional thieves known as "The School of Turin" have just started to embark on a long and perilous job that will reveals how they did it in a very brilliant and innovative way. A particular theme/message in the book reveals how the impossible can be done. Another is that luck can play a monumental factor in certain situations. I particularly liked how the authors organized how minor characters and details are as important to the plot as the main characters and details are. One of few things about the book that I could criticize would be that this book can be boring during certain scenes to some people. I would recommend this book to someone who has an interest in non-fiction stories that shows how people can still do the impossible in these times. I would recommend reading the authors other work "Blood Diamonds" if you like this type of book. Ultimately, I would give this book an 8.7/10.
huckfinn37 More than 1 year ago
This book is wonderful. it is well-reseached and I love diamonds. I got a true sense of what is took to plan and pull off the heist. I liked that the reader found out what happened to everyone after the heist. I would highly recommend this true crime novel.
CookieMJ More than 1 year ago
This is a fascinating true crime story. It's hard to believe that this happened.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a fascinating story worthy of Hollywood. While the authors seem to have done a lot of research, their reliance on police investigation information without any data from the criminals themselves limits the viewpoint somewhat. Having said that, it is a quite enjoyable tale, as well as a fascinating look at both the diamond trade in Antwerp and the criminal scene in Turin.
lowfive More than 1 year ago
This book was fascinating.. a fun read. I highly recommend it. What a story, and told from an objective point of view. This, the greatest diamond heist in history was pulled off, botched and the whole story is right here. what a ride!
ConnieR215 More than 1 year ago
This book was a great read and very interesting--loved it even more that it was a free download! Interesting and lots of insider info on the diamond trade. Recommend this book--great e-read
lilk More than 1 year ago
This book was very fascinating read for the largest diamond heist in history. It begins in 2003 where a group of men robbed one of the most ultra-secure vaults in the diamond district in Antwerp, but was it really? You know from the very beginning of the book that at least one thief was apprehended, but you don't find out the fate of the others till closer to the end. Along the way you learn a great deal about diamonds and the diamond trade, along with safes, locks, vaults, security measures, Antwerp, and some history, there was a lot of time spent on the plot to rob the diamond district in Antwerp. It's very well written. It's seemed to be divided into two halves: the first half on how the deed was planned and pulled off, the second half is how it was solved and the actual thieves that were caught. Neither half could have occurred were it not for human error. I would highly recommend this book for it's very interesting plot. Soon after I read the book I rented the movie called Flawless with Demi Moore and Michael Caine Where on the eve of his retirement, a disgruntled British janitor (Michael Caine), angry over his company's refusal to pay an insurance claim for his ailing wife, persuades an unhappy American executive (Demi Moore) to join him in a jewel heist. The two subsequently hatch a daring plan to steal the gems from their employer, the London Diamond Corp. Michael Radford directs this crime drama set in 1960s London and loosely based on actual events. While I thought this movie was going to be the same as the book Flawless and it didn't turn out to be that way, it was still a good movie.
IrshLass More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this book. The research and presentation of information surrounding the diamond heist was informative and thrilling. I loved seeing, not only how the crime was planned and executed, but how the authors researched the whole heist! They hit a slightly sour note with me in discussing the Wired article and deal with Notabartolo. It felt a bit petty and personal, when the rest of the book had been so objective and well-written. Overall, a great read!
DaVinci410 More than 1 year ago
This book was very absorbing in the way that the thieves went about doing the research on how best to pull this heist. The only down side I found was how the writer often implied that the crooks were caught, and how some of their mistakes led to the solving of this crime. Many people (myself included) were not aware of the outcome of this heist, so it was a spoiler to mention how the crooks were caught, long before the reader comes to the heist itself.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
EG0 More than 1 year ago
Flawless is, above all, thoroughly researched. The authors have clearly interviewed all the known actors, principal and minor, analyzed the available evidence and reports, examined the court cases, and proffered both what is known and what isn’t. I appreciate their evaluation of competing theories and offering their reasoning behind why they don’t consider them legitimate. Additionally, they provide an excellent background for the reader to understand the environment in which the theft took place; I never expected to learn so much about the diamond industry, Antwerp’s history, Italy’s history, the Mafia, the Belgian court system, and how jewelry thieves operate, among other things. This book presents a very thorough overview of the entire operation, and anyone interested in how the crime took place and its aftermath will be pleased with this book. However, anyone interested in a true crime book that’s exciting is going to be disappointed. The book is very dry, and it failed to really capture my interest. For me, this stems from a number of factors: the overabundance of detail regarding every facet of the crime (I didn’t need to know that much about post-1950s Mafia activity in order to understand the heist, for example) which slowed down the pace and made the text tedious; the style of prose being closer to a textbook than a novel; and the lack of intrigue and buildup that I expected from a heist novel. I had to force myself to keep reading, and only found a few chapters living up to their potential: the most interesting one was the one in which the actual crime took place. Perhaps rearranging the chapter order would have helped; maybe if the book started with the discovery of the crime, the detectives’ investigation, and the mystery of where the stolen diamonds had been hidden, and then followed with the discovery of the criminals and went into detail about how the investigators think they did it, the narrative would be more intriguing to the reader. Also, there were a number of small flaws that impacted the book’s quality. In several instances, the authors repeated information almost verbatim that they had already introduced in the text, such as the information about the plastic faceplate and Finotto’s conviction in absentia. If they felt it was necessary to remind the reader, they ought to have found a way to paraphrase their earlier lines or alter the phrasing. There were also a few places in which commas should have been inserted and weren’t, and several odd tense changes and word order choices throughout served to confuse the reader more than anything else. These conditions made reading the book much more laborious than it should have been. Ultimately, I feel that, although the book is an excellent collection of facts, the story lacks the sort of interest to keep a reader reading if they aren’t very invested in learning about this particular crime.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago