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

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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:
198,417
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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