It is very difficult to envisage a group of men dressed in perfect corporate suits with ties done properly and shoes polished in perfect colour, robbing a bank. It seems more like a sequence from some Hollywood crime thriller. However, such cases have been reported in the past and even remained untraced for a long time. The reason behind the success of these crimes was a well planned strategy by the criminals before they went ahead with their ‘job’. Here is a list of top 10 sophisticated crimes of all time that bamboozled everyone, literally!
It is regarded as the biggest heist in an art gallery in any part of the world. In the year 1990, two men dressed as police officers entered the Isabella Stewart Gardener Museum in Boston late night. It was so perfectly executed that not even the guards could make out that that a heist had taken place. The loss was of a staggering $500 million in art, and the robbers remain untraced till date.
Abdul Karim Telgi was the mastermind behind one of the biggest scams in the history of India. It was accomplished with paramount sophistication and planning. The crime was very well strategized and executed. It involved several top politicians of Maharashtra. The whole scam was of around Rs.600 billion. Telgi literally created illegal wealth for himself and several others by printing counterfeit stamp papers and distributed them all over India. It is still regarded as one of the most astutely carried out crimes in the Indian history.
In the year 2004, Martin Frankel was convicted for looting many insurance firms in Midwest. The total amount of money involved was over $200 million. He went on to mislead all these companies and unsuccessfully invested in them, thereby causing huge losses. He used the money to purchase a huge mansion for himself along with some luxury cars to lure women whom he had met over dating sites on the Internet.
During the 1920s Charles Ponzi created one of the most famous financial frauds in the history of the world. Ponzi created investment schemes – now known as Ponzi schemes after his name – for investors to put money into, in order to earn huge returns. Majority of the people in Europe and US found the scheme lucrative as compared to other banks. They were more than happy thinking about doubling their money in no time. However, Ponzi made no profits (from the investments) and repaid the investors either with their own money or from investments from new set of investors. He plan was later busted.
Bayou group collected around $300 million from different investors in 1996 and promised to pay back around $7 billion in return at the time of maturity of the fund. However, the next two years offered poor returns. The participating investors were kept in dark regarding the transactions and mislead for a long time. Major part of the funds was diverted for their personal use. Finally, when investors got to know the reality, it was too late. Owners of the company were arrested later.
Bernard Ebbers was the CEO of WorldCom in the year 1999 when it was at its peak in terms of growth. Company’s stocks were rising and so was the net profit. Therefore, Bernard raised a huge amount of investment on his stocks and diverted it towards his personal business without taking any other director of the company into confidence. It went well for quite some time but as the growth plunged in the coming year, the stock price began to fall to a new low. All Ebbers could do at that point of time was to paint a false picture of his company to his investors and keep price of his stocks artificially inflated. Eventually, the whole fraud was busted.
One of the biggest forgeries that have been ever reported, Enron scam shook the world for quite some time. It was one of the 10 largest companies in America and employed over 21,000 staff worldwide. However, few of the top officials grouped together to embezzle the company’s funds and hide billions of dollars in debt in the account books. Once the scam was discovered in October 2001, the company lost its existence and most of its employees were jailed.
In the late 1980’s India, a group of conmen went on to execute well planned heists in various parts of the country posing as CBI or Income Tax sleuths. They generally raided top bureaucrats, politicians and corporate honchos who had no dearth of illegal cash. This ensured that their ‘raids’ went unreported. They even conducted interviews for recruitment by publishing employment advertisements in leading national dailies. The mastermind behind the entire operation still roams free.
A trainee to Harshad Mehta, Ketan Parekh followed the same footsteps as of his guru (known for his shady history). He manipulated the India stock market in the year 1999-2001. Parekh was convicted in the year 2008 and barred from trading in the stock market till 2017. The amount of money involved in the financial crime was estimated to be around Rs.120 crore.
One of the shrewdest brains in the Indian history, Harshad Mehta was charged in a total of 27 financial crimes all related to Bombay Stock Exchange. However, Mehta was convicted in just one case before his death in 2001. He manipulated the stock market in the year 1992 through his stock broking firm. He was in a massive stock manipulation scheme financed by insignificant bank receipts. Mehta was also involved in numerous “benami” deals. The scam was valued at Rs.50 billion.