Page last updated at 17:06 GMT, Tuesday, 11 August 2009 18:06 UK

High-profile heists

Two armed robbers are being sought for stealing £40m worth of necklaces, rings and watches from a London jewellers. How does this raid compare with some of the world's biggest and most notorious robberies?

2009: GRAFF JEWELLERS

The £40m raid on London jeweller Graff is believed to be the biggest-ever British gems heist. It dwarfs the previous title-contender - a £23m raid at the same store in 2003.

Graff, New Bond Street
The store has been targeted in two major raids

Two smartly-dressed armed robbers walked out of a black taxi and into the New Bond Street store on 6 August.

Once inside, they pulled out two handguns and threatened staff before snatching 43 different rings, bracelets, necklaces and watches.

They escaped across the city's West End in a series of vehicles, firing two warning shots into the ground as they went.

Graff's Sloane Street branch in Knightsbridge was also hit in 2005, when armed robbers escaped with up to £1m worth of jewellery.

2007: DAR ES SALAAM BANK

Possibly the world's biggest robbery occurred in July 2007 but the raid got surprisingly little coverage in the media.

Police said three guards who worked at the private Dar Es Salaam bank in Baghdad's Karrada district had apparently walked off with $292m (£146m) from the bank's vaults.

Iraq has been heavily reliant on a cash economy since the British and US invasion in 2003, and this made banks highly vulnerable.

In March 2003 the then Iraqi President Saddam Hussein ordered his sons Uday and Qusay to steal $1bn (£500m) from the Central Bank of Iraq in Baghdad. About two-thirds of the money was later found hidden in the walls of one of the leader's palaces. But because of Saddam's position this was not really considered a robbery in the traditional sense.

2006: SECURITAS DEPOT

A security depot manager, his wife and young child were kidnapped and held hostage by a gang who raided the Securitas site in Kent on 21 February 2006.

Lorry at depot
A hostage was used to gain entry in the Securitas raid

The robbers took the family at gunpoint and drove them to a farm for questioning, before heading to the Tonbridge depot.

Once there, the men tied up 14 terrified workers and set about loading up a lorry with a haul of £53m in notes. Another £153m was left behind because there was no room left in the getaway vehicle.

In January 2008, five men were convicted on kidnap, robbery and firearms charges and given minimum jail terms of between 10 and 15 years.

The judge told them: ""This was organised banditry for uniquely high stakes."

2005: BANCO CENTRAL

In 2005 robbers stole £38m from a branch of the Banco Central in the Brazilian city of Fortaleza.

The tunnel leading to the Banco Central in Fortaleza
The robbers spent three months digging this tunnel

The robbers spent months preparing for the raid. Basing themselves in a house opposite the bank, they toiled on a 200m (656ft) tunnel into the bank and broke through the final metre of steel-reinforced concrete.

Choosing the weekend of 6/7 August 2005 - when they knew the bank would be closed - they set about emptying the vault of millions of reals, the local currency.

The bank was not insured but about £4m was recovered.

One of the masterminds, Luis Fernando Ribeiro, 26, was found shot dead on an isolated road 200 miles (320km) west of Rio de Janeiro two months after the robbery. It is thought he may have fallen out with other members of the gang or been double-crossed.

2004: NORTHERN BANK

Northern Bank in Belfast
It was believed the IRA may have been involved in the robbery

On 20 December 2004 a gang stole £26.4m from the headquarters of the Northern Bank in Belfast - which, at the time, was the largest amount of cash ever taken in a robbery in the UK.

The scale of the robbery was so large that the bank had to withdraw its notes and replace them with new ones, with different logos and colours.

It also had political ramifications as it was blamed on the IRA, who were supposed to have ended all criminal activity.

Most of the stolen cash has yet to be recovered.

1995: MIDLAND BANK CLEARING CENTRE

On 3 July 1995 a gang ambushed a Securicor van at the Midland Bank Clearing Centre in Salford, Greater Manchester.

Graham Huckerby and friend
Graham Huckerby (left) was wrongly convicted for the robbery

Using violence and threats, they forced the van's driver, Graham Huckerby, to let them in and then took over the van and drove it away. They escaped with £6.6m in cash.

Mr Huckerby was later accused of being the "inside man" and was convicted in 2002, along with another man, and jailed for 14 years.

Both men's convictions were quashed by the Court of Appeal in December 2004 and they walked free.

The robbery remains unsolved and none of the money was ever recovered.

1990: CITY BONDS

On 2 May 1990 a financial messenger was robbed at knifepoint in a quiet City of London side street.

He had been carrying Treasury bonds worth £292m.

Detectives believe the mugging was carried out by Patrick Thomas, a small-time crook from south London who was shot dead before he could be charged.

The police later recovered all but two of the bonds after a tip-off.

One man, Keith Cheeseman, received a six-and-a-half-year sentence for laundering the stolen bonds.

1987: KNIGHTSBRIDGE SAFETY DEPOSIT CENTRE

At least £40m of goods were stolen from 120 safe deposit boxes at a warehouse opposite Harrods on a Sunday in July 1987.

The robbery was an inside job planned with the help of the managing director of the centre, Parvez Latif, who was heavily in debt.

Italian Valerio Viccei received a 22-year sentence for masterminding the theft.

In 1992 he was given the right to serve the rest of his sentence in an Italian jail, but in 2000, while on day release, he was gunned down by police after acting suspiciously.

The whereabouts of most of the £40m horde remains unknown.

1983: BRINKS MAT

Six armed men gained entry to the Brinks Mat high security warehouse at Heathrow Airport on 26 November 1983 by posing as security guards.

They doused a guard with petrol and threatened to set him alight unless he opened the vault.

Brinks Mat robbery in 1983
The Brinks Mat robbers got away with 6,000 gold bars

The gang escaped with gold bullion and diamonds worth £26m - about £112m in today's terms.

Most of the gold is thought to have been melted down and sold off, and the proceeds invested in property abroad.

Solicitor Bob McCunn, working for Brinks Mat's insurers, helped to recover millions of those monies.

Robbers Micky McAvoy and Brian Robinson were jailed for 25 years, while the inside man, Anthony Black, received a much shorter sentence after giving evidence against them.

Kenneth Noye, who was jailed for 14 years for handling some of the stolen gold, was sentenced to life in 2000 for a murder committed in 1996.

1983: SECURITY EXPRESS

On Easter Monday 1983 a gang broke into the Security Express depot in Shoreditch, east London, and escaped with £6m.

Ronnie Knight
Ronnie Knight laundered some of the proceeds

The robbery was masterminded by John Knight, the brother of Ronnie Knight, the former husband of actress Barbara Windsor.

John Knight was later jailed for 22 years.

Ronnie Knight, who was living in Spain, later admitted handling some of the stolen money and was jailed in 1994.

The haul would be worth about £26m in 2008 terms.

1976: BRITISH BANK OF THE MIDDLE EAST

On 20 January 1976 members of a Palestinian group allied to Yasser Arafat's Palestine Liberation Organisation stole £22m from the British Bank of the Middle East in the Lebanese capital, Beirut.

Yasser Arafat in Beirut
Yasser Arafat's PLO made millions from the robbery

The raid, which occurred at the height of the Lebanese civil war, happened when the gang blasted through a wall the bank shared with a Catholic church.

The Palestinians reputedly employed a group of Corsican locksmiths to gain entry to the vault and the safety deposit boxes within.

The haul, which included gold bars, Lebanese money, foreign currencies, stock certificates and jewellery, had to be taken away in lorries.

The £22m - worth about £100m at today's prices - helped finance the PLO's activities throughout the 1970s and 1980s.

1963: GREAT TRAIN ROBBERY

The Royal Mail Travelling Post Office
The Great Train robbers targeted a Glasgow-to-London mail train

On 8 August 1963 armed robbers stole £2.6m in cash from the Glasgow-to-London Royal Mail train.

A gang of 15 robbers brought the train to a halt in rural Buckinghamshire with a fake stop signal.

Train driver Jack Mills, who was struck on the head during the robbery, never fully recovered from his injuries and died in 1970.

Detectives found the robbers' base, Leatherslade Farm, and a series of clues recovered there led them to most of the gang members, who were caught and sentenced to up to 30 years in jail.

One of them, Ronnie Biggs, later escaped from Wandsworth prison and fled to Brazil.

He returned to Britain in 2001 to serve the remainder of his sentence, and in 2009 was released on compassionate grounds due to his deteriorating health.

Most of the money - worth about £40m in today's terms - was recovered in the months following the robbery.



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