Belfast bank raid one of biggest in history

The robbery of more than £20 million (€28

The robbery of more than £20 million (€28.8 million) from the headquarters of the Northern Bank in Belfast is one of the biggest heists in history.

It joins only a small list of famous robberies including the Great Train Robbery in 1963 and a bank heist in Beirut in 1976.

In August 1963 the Great Train Robbers' haul was £2,631,784 (€3,800,000) in banknotes - worth about £40 million (€58 million) today. The money was on a train en route from Glasgow to London, where it was to be destroyed, when it was ambushed near Mentmore in Buckinghamshire.

Train driver Jack Mills was left badly injured after being hit over the head and gang members were later rounded up and sentenced to jail terms of up to 30 years each.


Two decades later, on November 26th, 1983, another gang stole 6,800 bars of gold from the Brink's-Mat bullion warehouse near Heathrow Airport, London.

The €37 million raid was carried out by six armed men posing as security guards. They escaped with three tonnes of gold after dousing a guard with petrol and threatening to set light to him if he did not open the vault.

Most of the bullion was never recovered but some of it ended up in the hands of villain Kenneth Noye.

According to the Guinness Book of Records the world's biggest bank robbery happened during civil disorder in Beirut, Lebanon in January, 1976. Guerrillas blasted open the vaults of the British Bank of the Middle East in Bab Idriss and cleared out safe-deposit boxes full of cash, gold, stock certificates and jewellery.

The haul was valued at up to €32 million at 1976 prices.

Another raid, in Britain, is also estimated to have netted £30 million (€43 million) in July, 1987. A gang broke into a safe deposit centre opposite Harrods in central London and cleared out the contents.

All these crimes were dwarfed, however, by the greatest robbery on record. It was also from a bank and happened during April and May 1945 as Germany collapsed at the end of the Second World War. The amount of gold looted from Germany's Reichsbank during that time was estimated at €3.6 billion at 1984 prices.

In America a security van driver pulled off one of the largest cash robberies when he stole €20 million in unmarked notes in March 1997.

The current record for a jewel haul, as recorded by the Guinness Book of Records, stands at €43 million.

That raid took place when three men firing blanks from machine guns burst into the Carlton Hotel in Cannes, France, in August 1994 and robbed the hotel's exclusive store just as it was closing.

The world record for a mugging happened on the streets of London and stands at £292 million (€420 million). On May 2nd, 1990, Mr John Goddard was doing his daily courier round from Sheppard's money brokers when a mugger held him at knifepoint and grabbed his briefcase which contained almost 300 bearer bonds. Within hours every major bank had been warned not to accept the certificates.