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Gangster in 'heist of the century' caught after book boast

DETECTIVES in France have arrested a Marseille gangster after he claimed in a book to be the mastermind behind the 'heist of the century' -- a €28m robbery by a gang who burrowed into a Nice bank from the sewers.

Police seized Jacques Cassandri, a known figure of the southern French underworld, after he decided to set the record straight by writing about his role in the Rivieria robbery.

Mr Cassandri (68) is under investigation for possessing "illegally obtained funds, money laundering and non-justification of (financial) resources".

In 'The Truth about the Nice Heist', Mr Cassandri -- writing under the pseudonym Amigo -- says he was tired of living in the shadow of the man assumed to have run the 'Ocean's Eleven'-style bank job, Albert Spaggiari, who he claimed in fact only played a bit part.

On July 16, 1976, after two months of drilling through the underlying sewers, a commando of 13 robbers finally broke into the vaults of the Societe Generale bank in central Nice.

They spent the next six days clearing 370 coffers of gold ingots, jewellery and cash amounting to 50 million francs (today around €28m) before making their getaway as the rising sewage waters began to flood the bank.

When police arrived, they found the words "neither weapons, nor violence, nor hatred" scrawled on the walls.

The booty was never recovered, but police soon arrested Mr Spaggiari, who first denied involvement then claimed to be the mastermind, saying he got the sewer idea from a novel.


The robber claimed the money was to fund an unknown international nationalist movement.

But in a coup de theatre, Mr Spaggiari managed to escape; he jumped out of a 20ft-high window, was whisked away by a waiting motorbike, travelled to Paris in the boot of a Rolls-Royce and left France.

He spent the rest of his life on the run and died in Italy in 1989. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent