Albert “Bert” Spaggiari

 Sans armes! Ni haine! Ni violence! 

Without Arms! Nor Hate! Nor Violence!

Perhaps the one real life bank robber who comes closest to the Hollywood image of a criminal Mastermind was Albert Spaggiari. Spaggiari seems like a pretty interesting cat. According to his Wikipedia page he committed his first robbery to get some jewelry for his girlfriend. He was a paratrooper during the French Indochina war (France’s Vietnam) but it is unclear whether he volunteered for service or he was pressed into service due to his criminal past? Certainly his criminal tendencies may have saved his life. He was supposedly absent from Dien Bien Fu because he was serving some jail time.

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Later he had some associations with a paramilitary group called the Organisation armée secrète (OAS) that opposed Algerian Independence. It is a little unclear if he was a full fledged member of the OAS or if he was merely a sympathizer but he did serve some prison time over his ties to the group. After his prison time he seemed to “settle down,” and he opened a photography studio in Nice.

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It was during this time that he would plan and execute the heist that would make him somewhat of a legend. He discovered that a sewer line ran close to the Société Générale bank. He built up a crew that may have included local mobsters as well as former OAS members. The crew spent two months drilling through to the bank vault. He checked for the existence of sonic and seismic detectors by placing a very loud alarm clock in a safety deposit box. The bank, it turns out, had no detectors in its vault believing that the vault was impregnable. On the night of July 16th, 1976, the crew broke into the vault and made off with an estimated 60 million Francs.

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In October of the same year the police got a good tip from a former girlfriend of one of the crew members. After interrogating him he turned over the whole crew. Spaggiari was arrested but that was probably a good thing if his goal was to become a legend. (Not that I have a clue if that was a priority of his?) Had he not been arrested he wouldn’t have had the opportunity to pull off one of the most dramatic, no shit this really happened, escapes of all time.

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Spaggiari made a phony coded message that he claimed would prove his innocence. The judge, in order to determine if it should be admitted into evidence, called Spaggiari and his attourney, to his office. While the judge was distracted with the phony document Spaggiari jumped out of the second floor window and on to a parked car below. There was a motor cycle waiting for him in the street and he hopped on the back and sped off to safety! Tell me his paratroop drill instructor wasn’t secretly proud of that stunt!

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It appears he spent the rest of his live in hiding. Perhaps in Argentina and possibly in Italy. In 1989 Spaggiari’s corpse was dropped off on his mother’s doorstep. He had apparently died of throat cancer. Thus ended the amazing and true life of Albert Spaggiari. He has been the subject of three movies, two French and one English, but why Hollywood hasn’t bothered to make one yet is a mystery to me? His real life story is more exciting than some fictional heist movies I have seen of late!

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A lot of my information on Albert Spaggiari come from his Wikipedia page and an episode of the TV show Masterminds. Check them both out for more information. Also, go Like his Facebook page!

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