A journalistic gem

This, friends, is a fine piece of journalism. A reporter has tracked down and interviewed members of an internatiaonal cabal of diamond thieves to produce a stunning picture of the life of Yugoslavian professional criminals.

It does seem eerily similar to a bunch of Mafia “confessionals” that I read when I wanted to write a Mafia novel. The accounts from the gangsters perhaps suffer a little from their slightly myopic and glorified storytelling. But it’s well worth a read.

The heist alone is worthy of detailed retelling (and will no doubt be the plot line of Oceans 14) – from the story:

Each member of the gang did his or her job perfectly. The attractive young woman seduced the son of the jewelry store owner in Rome to find out where the safe was in the owner’s house. She also discovered that the owner needed builders for repairs. Some of the others secured the renovation contract and cased the house. The get-away driver spent weeks learning every one-way road and stop sign in downtown Rome. And eventually the safe-cracker, the smallest in the group, hid himself inside a false-bottomed chest that the others left on the balcony of a bedroom where the safe was located.

As luck would have it, he didn’t even have to break into the safe, which was hidden behind a painting. The jeweller’s other son left it open for 15 minutes, plenty of time for the diminutive safe-cracker to remove the diamonds and make his escape to the street, where the driver was waiting for him. Back in their rented apartment in Ostia, near the Fiumicino airport outside Rome, the gang met up and celebrated.

The heist was the work of a subgroup of a network of criminals dubbed the Pink Panthers. In the last ten years these guys stole $340 million worth of jewelry in 160 robberies in 26 countries.

Some of the quotes from the criminals are just priceless…

“Any good robbery should take up to 20 seconds.”

Another said that having a nickname and reputation in the media will be the death of the gang:

“When they give you a name you’re in big trouble,” he said, as he finished up a dinner of fresh sea bass at the seaside restaurant and lit a cigarette. “Because every single small policeman is trying to catch you. We lost a lot of guys because of that name. Some of our co-workers got drunk in casinos and were bragging about it, thinking they are something. It’s better to be nothing. The best criminals are those who stay out of prison.”