What seemed like a case straight out of a Steve McQueen movie took a sudden turn toward "The Parent Trap," when investigators realized the suspects were twins, and apparently identical ones, which would make them all but indistinguishable genetically. Local newspapers reported that the rules of German criminal procedures do not allow the most advanced DNA tests that might be able to differentiate between identical twins, and called the case "unique in Berlin criminal history," according to the daily Tagesspiegel. This could lead to a situation in which each could claim that the other had committed the crime, potentially allowing both to go free.
Bernhard Schodrowski, spokesman for the Berlin police department, said that investigators were still hard at work, looking for a total of four perpetrators or more behind the break-in. Tell us what you think. Please upgrade your browser. See next articles. Newsletter Sign Up Continue reading the main story Please verify you're not a robot by clicking the box. Invalid email address.
The Untold Story of the World's Biggest Diamond Heist
Please re-enter. You must select a newsletter to subscribe to. But, the only witness to the theft could not say which brother had carried it out; the result was no indictment. In February , eyewitnesses to a murder outside an Arizona nightclub said that Orlando Nembhard was the gunman.
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Or, it might have been his identical twin brother Brandon. Who can say? Police held Orlando for a while but had to let him go. Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites. Other product and company names shown may be trademarks of their respective owners. HubPages and Hubbers authors may earn revenue on this page based on affiliate relationships and advertisements with partners including Amazon, Google, and others.
HubPages Inc, a part of Maven Inc. As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, owlcation. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so. Rupert Taylor more. Early Morning Heist As the city slept, three masked men climbed onto the awning of the department store. They got out way they had come in, leaving behind the rope ladder and a single latex glove. The Vital Clue — Sort of The latex glove the thieves left behind came in for close scrutiny.
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Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized. This is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. An automatic electric pulse constantly shot into the room and back out along these wires. If any of the sensors were tripped, the circuit would break. When a pulse shot into the room, it expected an answer. If it didn't get one, it activated the alarm. With his hands over his head, the Monster used a tool to strip the plastic coating off the wires.
It was a delicate task. One slip could cut through, instantly breaking the circuit and tripping the alarm. The police would later discover stripped wires in the ceiling and guess that the thieves considered cutting them, only to lose their nerve. But Notabartolo says that the Monster knew exactly what he was doing.
Once the copper wires were exposed, he clipped a new, precut piece of wire between the inbound and outbound cables. This bridge rerouted the incoming electric pulse over to the outbound wire before the signal reached the sensors. It no longer mattered what happened further down the line. The sensors were out of the loop. It was now safe for the others to enter. Still, the men were cautious. The King of Keys unloaded a homemade, hand-cranked drill and fitted it with a thin shaft of metal. He jammed the shaft into one of the locks and cranked for about three minutes—until the lock broke, snapping open the box.
The guys took turns yanking the contents out.
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Since they had memorized the layout of the vault in the replica, they worked in the dark, turning on their flashlights only for split seconds—enough to position the drill over the next box. But in those muffled flashes, they could glimpse their duffel bags overflowing with gold bars, millions in Israeli, Swiss, American, European, and British currencies, and leather satchels that contained the mother lode: rough and polished diamonds.
They resisted the urge to examine their haul; they were running out of time. By am, they had opened boxes. A tamped-down giddiness pervaded the dark vault, but they had to stop. The streets would fill with people soon, and they needed to transfer their bags into Notarbartolo's car. Speedy relayed the message to him. They were coming out. It took almost an hour for the team to haul the bags up the stairs, pass by the infrared sensor, lower the loot down the ladder, and gather in the hallway of the decrepit office building.
Notarbartolo idled at the curb while on the phone with Speedy. A bus came and went, and then the street was empty. In the predawn half-light, the four men raced out of the building. They jammed the bags in the car, slammed the doors, and headed off on foot for Notarbartolo's apartment.
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He put the car in gear and slowly pulled away. In half an hour, they were huddled around the bags in the apartment. The Monster unzipped one and pulled out a leather satchel. It was time to celebrate. He took out another. It was also empty. A wave of anxiety swept the room. They unzipped all the other duffel bags and rifled through the satchels. More often than not, there was nothing in them.
Notarbartolo stepped into a scalding-hot shower while the others made salami sandwiches in the kitchen. He needed some clarity—the fatigue was weighing on him. In the weeks preceding the heist, he had seen many of the satchels in the offices of the diamantaires, and they were always filled with inventory.
Notarbartolo reflected on his interactions with the diamond dealer, and a thought flashed through his mind: Maybe the dealer wasn't operating alone. If he tipped off a group of his fellow merchants, they could have pulled their inventory out of the vault before the heist. Each could then claim that their gems were stolen and collect the insurance while secretly keeping their stones. Most had safes in their offices—they could have simply kept the stock there. Notarbartolo realized that the heist he had spent so much time planning might have actually been part of an elaborate insurance scam.
Speedy and Notarbartolo were on the E19 heading out of Antwerp.
Early Morning Heist
It was 6 o'clock on Sunday evening. Notarbartolo settled in for the hour drive back to Turin. The garbage bag filled with incriminating evidence sat in the backseat.
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Notarbartolo planned to stop in France and burn it, leaving no trace of the crime. But Speedy was having trouble. His face was ashen, and his eyes darted madly at the cars around them. Finally, after only 20 minutes on the road, he snapped. The guy was melting down. Notarbartolo told him to take it easy. He'd drop him at the train station in Brussels if that's what he wanted. It might actually be nicer to do the trip without his friend driving him crazy.
The city was crawling with cops—maybe they would be looking for them. They couldn't run the risk. They had to drop the bag immediately. August Van Camp likes weasels. The year-old retired Belgian grocer had two—he called them Mickey and Minnie—and he enjoyed sending them down holes in the forest. Typically, a rabbit came rocketing out the other end. It was a lot of fun. In , he bought a narrow strip of forest alongside the E19 motorway. It was about a five-minute drive from his house, and if you ignored the sound of cars hurtling past at 80 miles an hour, it was a pretty 12 acres of trees with a gurgling stream.
There were also a lot of holes with rabbits in them. But because it adjoined the highway, Van Camp found a lot of garbage. The local teenagers once decided to have a party there and burned down a little hut he'd built. It made him fume with anger. When he found garbage, he phoned the police, who had gotten used to his calls. A typical conversation:. The garbage Van Camp found on his property that led to Notarbartolo's arrest. While hunting one morning—Monday, February 17, to be exact—Van Camp was incensed to find yet another pile of junk in the underbrush.
After a flash of pique that made him puff out his cheeks, throw up his arms, and wonder what the world was coming to, he knelt down and glared at the refuse. He wanted to be able to describe to the cops what he had to put up with. There was videotape strewn all over the place. A wine bottle rested near a half-eaten salami sandwich. There were also some white envelopes printed with the words diamond center, antwerp. Van Camp's irritation increased. At home, he punched in the number for the police and asked to lodge a complaint.
The officer listened as Van Camp tallied the mess. When Van Camp mentioned Diamond Center envelopes, the officer broke in. By mid-afternoon, a half-dozen detectives swarmed the forest, painstakingly gathering the garbage and collecting stray gems. Van Camp watched with satisfaction. The police were finally treating his litter situation with the proper respect. Within hours, the trash began to fill the evidence room at the Diamond Squad headquarters in Antwerp. A member of the squad bent over the clear plastic bags, looking for immediate clues.
A pile of torn paper seemed promising. It didn't take long to reassemble the pieces like a jigsaw puzzle. It was an invoice for a low-light video surveillance system. The buyer: Leonardo Notarbartolo. Notarbartolo's invoice for a low-light video surveillance system. Back at Van Camp's property, another detective knelt among the thorny brambles and peered at a small, jagged piece of paper poking out of the mud. He carefully lifted it free and held it up to the light. It was a business card that bore the address and phone number of Elio D'Onorio, an Italian electronics expert tied to a series of robberies.
Notarbartolo has consistently refused to identify his accomplices, but all evidence indicates that D'Onorio is the Genius. The lab techs also bagged a half-eaten salami sandwich. They found Antipasto Italiano salami packaging nearby and sent it along to Diamond Squad headquarters. Four days later, the detectives executed a search warrant on the apartment Notarbartolo rented in Antwerp. In a cupboard, they found a receipt from a local grocery store for Antipasto Italiano salami. The receipt had a time-stamp. A detective drove to the grocery and asked the manager to rewind his closed-circuit television to pm on Thursday, February When the video came to a halt and snapped into focus, there was an image of a tall, muscular Italian purchasing salami.
His name: Ferdinando Finotto—the man most likely to be the Monster. On Monday—about 36 hours after the job was completed—the team of thieves reassembled at a bar in Adro, Italy, a small town about 50 miles northeast of Milan. They had agreed to meet the diamond dealer there and divide the loot. The dealer would get a third for financing the operation and putting the team together. The others would split the rest.
They had anticipated a haul in the tens of millions each. It was still a lot of money, but they couldn't help feeling they'd been played. Everybody had a lot of questions for the dealer. Hour after hour, he didn't arrive. Notarbartolo was already uneasy about what had happened in the forest. He knew he had made a mistake—he should have turned around after he dropped off Speedy at the train station and gone back to burn the garbage.
It was an embarrassing oversight, but what really irked him was that he had vouched for his friend, and the guy had cracked. On Thursday night, Notarbartolo ate dinner with his family at home outside of Turin. He tried to pretend that everything was normal. As usual, his 3-year-old granddaughter played with his cell phone and made him laugh.
He momentarily forgot his worries. His biggest problem was that he needed to go back to Belgium; the rental car was due in Antwerp the next day. The plan had always been to return it and show his face at the Diamond Center. That way, if the cops were looking for tenants who'd disappeared, he wouldn't be on the list. It would also give him an opportunity to clean his apartment more thoroughly. He told his family that he'd be leaving early the next morning. His wife decided to come along; she hadn't seen much of him lately. They could even have a nice dinner party with some friends from the Netherlands.
The next morning, as the Notarbartolos blew through the Swiss Alps, the police surrounded their home in Italy. Acting on the surveillance-system invoice discovered on Van Camp's land, the Belgian diamond detectives had asked the Italian police to search Notarbartolo's house. His year-old son, Marco, was there and refused to open the front door. He frantically dialed his father's cell phone while the police smashed the door open. In Notarbartolo's jacket pocket, his phone flashed but made no sound. His granddaughter had accidently turned off the ringer the night before.
Marco called his mother's phone—it was turned off. He tried his dad's phone repeatedly. It just rang and rang. Leonardo Notarbartolo was part of a five-man team behind the heist of the century. As Notarbartolo drove back to Belgium, Peys and De Bruycker wondered whether they'd ever catch the thieves. They could be anywhere by now: Brazil, Thailand, Russia. It never occurred to the detectives that one of the robbers would walk right back into the district. But that's exactly what Notarbartolo did. While one of his friends from the Netherlands waited on the street outside the Diamond Center, Notarbartolo waved at the security guard and dropped in to collect his mail.
The guard knew that the police were investigating Notarbartolo and phoned the building manager, who immediately called the detectives. When the police arrived, they found Notarbartolo chatting with the building manager and began peppering him with questions. The friend took off as Notarbartolo stalled for time, pretending to have trouble understanding French and claiming that he couldn't remember the exact address of his own apartment. He just knew how to walk there. As the police car pulled to the curb, Notarbartolo's wife and the friends who'd come for dinner stepped out of the building.
They were loaded down with bags and one carried a rolled-up carpet. Another minute and they would have been gone. The bags contained critical evidence.
The police dug out a series of prepaid SIM cards that were linked to cell phones used almost exclusively to call three Italians: Elio D'Onorio, aka the Genius; Ferdinando Finotto, alias the Monster; and the person most likely to be Speedy, an anxious, paranoid man named Pietro Tavano, a longtime associate of Notarbartolo's. On the night of the heist, a cell tower in the Diamond District logged the presence of all three, plus Notarbartolo. During that time, Tavano stayed in constant contact with Notarbartolo.
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The day Notarbartolo was arrested, Italian police broke open the safe at his home in Turin. They found 17 polished diamonds attached to certificates that the Belgian diamond detectives traced back to the vault. More gems were vacuumed out of the rolled-up carpet from Notarbartolo's Antwerp apartment.
The Belgian courts came down hard. They found Notarbartolo guilty of orchestrating the heist and sentenced him to 10 years. With the cell phone records and the peculiarly precise salami sandwich evidence, the Belgian detectives persuaded French police to raid the home of Finotto's girlfriend on the French Riviera. Legal proceedings dragged on, but Finotto was finally arrested in Italy in November and is serving a five-year sentence there.
When questioned by police in Italy, D'Onorio admitted that he had installed security cameras in Notarbartolo's office but denied any involvement in the crime. Nonetheless, his DNA was found on some adhesive tape left in the vault. He was extradited to Belgium in November to begin a five-year sentence.