Patience Is A Virtue

Patience Is A Virtue

In 1976, the Societe General Bank on the French Riviera contained more gold, money and gems than the top ten banks in Paris combined. This bank was impregnable; its vault lay two stories underground with four foot walls of reinforced concrete. No criminal would dare attempt the job, until Albert Spaggiari came to town and pulled of the greatest heist in European history.

Albert Spaggiari (December 14, 1932 – June 8, 1989), nicknamed Bert, was a French criminal chiefly known as the organizer of a break-in into a Société Générale bank in Nice, France in 1976.

Spaggiari was born in Laragne-Montéglin in the Hautes-Alpes département. He grew up in Hyères, where his mother had a lingerie store.
Spaggiari is reported to have committed his first robbery in order to offer a diamond to a girlfriend. Perhaps as part of a deal made with the authorities, he would later join a paratroop regiment during the Indochina War.

When Spaggiari heard that the sewers were close to the vault of the Société Générale bank, he began to plan a break-in into the bank. Eventually he decided to do it by digging into the bank vault from below. Spaggiari rented a box in the bank vault for himself and then put a loud alarm clock in the vault. He set the clock to ring at night in order to check the possible existence of any acoustic or seismic detection gear. In fact, there were no alarms protecting the vault because it was considered utterly impregnable; the door wall was extremely thick and there was no obvious way to access the other walls.

Spaggiari contacted professional gangsters from Marseille. Although it has never been verified, he probably got support from Gaëtano Zampa to build a team that was completed by some of his OAS friends, including would-be-assassin of Charles De Gaulle Gaby Anglade and con artist Jean Kay. His men made their way into the sewers and began a two-month effort to dig an eight meter long tunnel from the sewer to under the vault. Spaggiari had taken many precautions during this long dig. His men worked long hours continuously drilling. He told his men not to drink coffee nor alcohol and get at least 10 hours of sleep every shift to avoid any danger to the mission.

On July 16, 1976, during a long weekend due to Bastille Day festivities, Spaggiari’s gang broke into the vault itself. They opened 400 safe deposit boxes and stole an estimated 60 million francs worth of money, securities and valuables.

According to some accounts, Spaggiari brought his men a meal including wine and pâté, and reportedly they sat down in the vault for a picnic lunch, after welding the vault door shut from the inside. The gang spent hours picking through the various safe deposit boxes. Before they left on July 20, they left this message on the walls of the vault: sans armes, ni haine, ni violence (“without weapons, nor hatred, nor violence”). This was Spaggiari’s message to the world, implying that he considered himself to be something more than a common thief.

Added on: April 8th, 2012

Category: MONEY


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