The Bank Robber Whose Escape Was More Clever Than His Crime

Albert Spaggiari (pictured above) was a photographer who confessed to being the mastermind of an elaborate 1976 bank robbery on the Riviera that captivated all of France and gained international notoriety as ''the heist of the century.” 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. He decided to do it by digging into the bank vault from below. 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. It took Spaggiari and his two accomplices two months to dig a 25-foot-long tunnel from the sewer to under the vault. On July 16, 1976, during Bastille Day festivities, Spaggiari's gang broke into the vault itself. They opened 400 safe deposit boxes and stole an estimated 60 million francs ($59 million) worth of cash, securities and valuables. By the end of October, a tip from a former girlfriend of one of the thieves led police to make their first arrest. It wasn’t long before the man turned over the entire gang, including Spaggiari. During his case hearings, Spaggiari devised an escape plan. He made a fictitious document which he claimed as evidence. He made the document coded so it had to be deciphered by the judge. He distracted judge Richard Bouaziz with this document and then jumped out of a window, landed safely on a parked car, and escaped on a waiting motorcycle. His freedom would last Spaggiari the rest of his life. He was sentenced in absentia to life in prison. He underwent plastic surgery and spent the rest of his life in Argentina. Not a penny of the loot from the heist has never been found.