The authors of Flawless: Inside The Largest Diamond Heist In History are quick to point out how laughable the portrayals of big robberies in movies like Ocean’s Eleven and The Italian Job are. In spite of claims to the contrary, it’s unlikely that there were any double crosses or overly elaborate tricks involved in the theft of some $100 million in cash and jewelry from the Antwerp Diamond Center in 2003. But the truth behind the story makes it as compelling as any work of fiction.
Scott Andrew Selby and Greg Campbell try to let their research speak for itself, presenting information in a matter-of-fact fashion, though sometimes repeating details unnecessarily, or falling into fanciful portrayals of what the characters were thinking or feeling at key moments. The narrative chronicles the heist from its planning through the legal repercussions, telling a story of a group of ingenious, patient jewel thieves taking advantage of human negligence and arrogance.
Police still aren’t certain how thieves were able to access the nearly impenetrable vault housing 200 safety-deposit boxes filled with so much wealth that the robbers had to leave piles of gems and jewelry behind. But what has been pieced together is that the Diamond Center’s reliance on one piece of technology led employees to be overly lax with the rest of their security precautions. The result is that a known jewel thief was given an office in the Center and two years to observe and videotape the place’s security protocols, allowing his team to analyze its weaknesses and develop solutions that included using $20 worth of supplies to disable thousands of dollars worth of equipment.
The authors do try to give more weight to the theories they find likely and discredit those that ring false. They spend a chapter pulling apart a version of the story that one of the thieves sold to J.J. Abrams, spiced with all the elements of a big Hollywood movie, though it disagrees both with police reports and the testaments of his partners in crime.
Campbell is the author of Blood Diamonds: Tracing The Deadly Path Of The World’s Most Precious Stones, and he integrates his knowledge of the diamond trade into this new book. While the question of why diamonds are so valuable isn’t really relevant to the story of the theft, the extra information helps flesh out what becomes a full portrayal of the diamond industry and the people who prey upon it.