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Flawless: Inside the Largest Diamond Heist in History | [Scott Selby, Greg Campbell]

Flawless: Inside the Largest Diamond Heist in History

On February 15, 2003, a group of thieves broke into an allegedly airtight vault in the international diamond capital of Antwerp, Belgium and made off with over $108 million dollars worth of diamonds and other valuables. They did so without tripping an alarm or injuring a single guard in the process.
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Publisher's Summary

On February 15, 2003, a group of thieves broke into an allegedly airtight vault in the international diamond capital of Antwerp, Belgium and made off with over $108 million dollars worth of diamonds and other valuables. They did so without tripping an alarm or injuring a single guard in the process.

Although the crime was perfect, the getaway was not. The police zeroed in on a band of professional thieves fronted by Leonardo Notarbartolo, a dapper Italian who had rented an office in the Diamond Center and clandestinely cased its vault for over two years. The who of the crime had been answered, but the how remained largely a mystery.

Enter Scott Andrew Selby, a Harvard Law grad and diamond expert, and Greg Campbell, author of Blood Diamonds, who undertook a global goose chase to uncover the true story behind the daring heist. Tracking the threads of the story throughout Europe from Belgium to Italy, in seedy cafes and sleek diamond offices, the authors sorted through an array of conflicting details, divergent opinions and incongruous theories to put together the puzzle of what actually happened that Valentines Day weekend.

This real-life Ocean's Eleven, a combination of diamond history, journalistic reportage, and riveting true-crime story, provides a thrilling in-depth study detailing the better-than-fiction heist of the century.

©2010 Scott Selby (P)2010 Gildan

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3.8 (353 )
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  •  
    morton Rego Park, NY, United States 05-05-10
    morton Rego Park, NY, United States 05-05-10
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "An Exciting, Terrific, Nail Biting Ride!"

    This nail biting ride through the biggest diamond heist in history, from what was thought to be one of the most secure buildings in the world, is Flawless!
    Learning about this real-life theft, how it was pulled off, what happened to the thieves, and in the process, gaining insight into the fascinating world of diamond trading is unbelievably interesting.

    From Italy to Belgium, we see the design, planning and execution of this complex theft through the eyes of the crooks, the police and the diamond community. Italian crooks, American reporters, Hasidic Jews, honest cops, inept guards and accidental witnesses add up to a fascinating account and an exciting, terrific audio.

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Dan Chicago, IL, USA 06-18-10
    Dan Chicago, IL, USA 06-18-10
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "A true to life thriller - fantastic book!"

    During the time of the heist detailed in "Flawless", I was in the midst of moving/changing jobs, and most of the news was dominated by the run-up to the Iraq invasion. As a result, I knew and heard very little about this story when it happened. This book was a real treat for me. It is extremely well researched and written, providing as current and accurate an account as can be of a story that needs no embellishment. And as an audiobook, it's top-notch with an excellent job done by the narrator. You'll be captivated, even if you think you know all of the details about this daring heist.

    Get this book!

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    DS 12-18-12
    DS 12-18-12 Member Since 2012

    Say something about yourself!

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "the Con Man as hero"

    The biggest heist in history, well conceived, well executed and then.... hasty mistakes.
    What I found interesting was not that it could be done but rather how seemingly ineffective the Belgian police, Italian police and, I guess, Interpol were and how very short the prison sentence handed down. 5 years for a $100,000,000.00 heist? Hardly a deterrence, more like the price of doing business. And also, what's with being held for 18 months without charges filed? Ah, many things European are a mystery to me BUT I would advise all career criminals to ply their trade in Europe rather than the US

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jonathan Famous Pennsylvania 12-08-13
    Jonathan Famous Pennsylvania 12-08-13 Member Since 2009
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Fascinating story, missing details"
    Any additional comments?

    This is a fascinating true story, and I'd recommend reading about the events to anyone. For this particular telling, I have two complaints: 1) there's a fair amount of intro material about the various cities and state of the diamond industry and such at the time; it's not bad, but it's not directly necessary for the story; on the other hand, it's probably useful if one (like me) has no background or knowledge of that area at all; 2) it's lacking some answers at the end - now, it's a true story, and the world at large doesn't know what happened, so they couldn't have added it, but given how much was learned, it's somewhat disappointing not to get the whole story at the end. It seems they've given everything that's known, though. And the lack of that material is probably why there's more up-front material. Overall worth reading.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Scott Santa Clara, CA, United States 10-09-13
    Scott Santa Clara, CA, United States 10-09-13 Member Since 2011
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    "Very entertaining! A great listen!"

    Nicely told and fascinating. Highly recommended. The reading is very good--not flashy, but well-paced, and quite professional. The story is nothing short of amazing, and the telling is amusing, entertaining, and intriguing. The writing style is crisp, fun, and adult. A great listen.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Traci Huntersville, NC, United States 06-12-13
    Traci Huntersville, NC, United States 06-12-13 Member Since 2011
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    "Good insight to a true heist story"

    This is a very interesting listen. I agree that the description of the book from Amazon is pretty accurate. Amazing how these "Pros" are able to complete every aspect of the heist almost perfectly, except the escape!

    The author had to complete a lot of research to ensure his information was correct. He does a good job of explaining certain aspects, and if he isn't sure how something happened then he tells the reader.

    I enjoyed learning about the planning of the heist, the diamond business and how other countries didn't seem to work together during this time.

    The narrator's voice and timing were very good for this particular book, including pronunciation of Italian and Belgian words.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    boisebob 04-30-13
    boisebob 04-30-13 Member Since 2002
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    "Flawless non-fiction"
    What did you love best about Flawless?

    Excellent reporting. Obviously a lot of hard work by the author to choose the puzzle pieces that fit and put forth a credible narrative.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    Leonardo, what a smooth fella; other people have compared this heist to Ocean's Eleven, if so, Clooney would play him.


    Which character – as performed by Don Hagen – was your favorite?

    No characters were dramatized.


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

    The close to perfect crime.


    Any additional comments?

    I am a fan of true crime and this is one of the best that I've read or listened to.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    HIII 03-05-13
    HIII 03-05-13 Member Since 2010
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    "Interesting"

    I have a long time love affair with diamonds and found this detail ridden story interesting. Especially loved the narration about DeBeers. This seems to be a book with a narrow focus and unless you are interested in diamonds and "heists" I believe it would be as dull as watching the grass grow. But if this is an interest of yours don't miss Flawless.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jennifer Sicklerville, NJ, United States 06-04-12
    Jennifer Sicklerville, NJ, United States 06-04-12

    Jenners

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Interesting But Not Riveting"

    THIS REVIEW IS ABOUT THE AUDIOBOOK VERSION

    BOOK DESCRIPTION

    The subtitle for the book pretty much sums up the topic: “Inside the Largest Diamond Heist In History.” The description from Amazon does a pretty good job of giving you an overview of the details so I don’t have to:

    On February 15, 2003, a group of thieves broke into an allegedly airtight vault in the international diamond capital of Antwerp, Belgium and made off with over $108 million dollars worth of diamonds and other valuables. They did so without tripping an alarm or injuring a single guard in the process.

    Although the crime was perfect, the getaway was not. The police zeroed in on a band of professional thieves fronted by Leonardo Notarbartolo, a dapper Italian who had rented an office in the Diamond Center and clandestinely cased its vault for over two years. The who of the crime had been answered, but the how remained largely a mystery.

    Enter Scott Andrew Selby, a Harvard Law grad and diamond expert, and Greg Campbell, author of Blood Diamonds, who undertook a global goose chase to uncover the true story behind the daring heist. Tracking the threads of the story throughout Europe from Belgium to Italy, in seedy cafes and sleek diamond offices, the authors sorted through an array of conflicting details, divergent opinions and incongruous theories to put together the puzzle of what actually happened that Valentines Day weekend.

    This real-life Ocean’s Eleven, a combination of diamond history, journalistic reportage, and riveting true-crime story, provides a thrilling in-depth study detailing the better-than-fiction heist of the century.

    MY THOUGHTS

    For the most part, I think the description above is pretty accurate … with the possible exception of the phrase “a thrilling in-depth study detailing the better-than-fiction heist of the century.” This particular story probably isn’t better than fiction, for, as the authors point out multiple times throughout the book, real-life isn’t as glamorous or as fast-moving as fictional heists, like the ones depicted in the Ocean’s Eleven series of films. The thieves spent almost two years planning and plotting, and the heist itself didn’t rely on high-tech devices, disguises or split-second timing. In fact, the amazing thing about this story is that it was the lax security provided by the HUMANS at the Diamond Center that enabled the thieves to pull off the crime … plus a bit of duct tape, hair spray, styrofoam and a long broom handle!

    The book provides a balanced mix of the particulars of the heist (both before, during and after, including the subsequent detective work) and the history of diamonds, the diamond district in Antwerp and past diamond heists. What bogs the book down is that no one (except for the actual thieves) know all the details of the heist. Selby and Campbell do a good job of creating a plausible scenario but there are still key details that have not been nailed down … and the thieves aren’t yet willing to spill the beans. (Although Notarbartolo sold his “inside” story to Wired magazine, the authors conclude that his account was an elaborate bit of fiction designed to minimize his own involvement and disguise the actual size of the heist.)

    Although the heist itself was allegedly a “perfect” crime, one small mistake (and a bit of bad luck) led to their almost instantaneous capture, which was almost disappointing to me as a reader. Part of me yearned for the neat conclusion of the Ocean’s Eleven movies … where the gang walks away scot-free and leaves everyone scratching their heads. The other thing that was weird to me was how little punishment the thieves ended up facing—based in no small part on the Belgian justice system.

    Overall, the book was interesting and kept my attention, but I’d still rather watch Ocean’s Eleven.

    About the Narration: Don Hagen has a deep voice that was well-suited to this particular book. He effortlessly pronounced the Italian and Belgian surnames and the rather complicated sounding Antwerp street names.

    Recommended for: Readers who enjoy true crime books that aren’t violent or involve murder

    5 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Glenys Aston, PA, United States 09-08-10
    Glenys Aston, PA, United States 09-08-10 Member Since 2009
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Zzzz"

    I'm on chapter 5 and so far the book is a real snooze. I'm hoping from reading the other reviews that it will get more exciting. I feel like I'm being read an encyclopaedia description of the history of diamonds and Antwerp diamond trading. I guess I was expecting more of an Ocean's Eleven type story.

    7 of 12 people found this review helpful
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  • Joe
    Nottingham, United Kingdom
    2/12/12
    Overall
    "Everything you'd want in a book about a heist!"

    A fascinating book which details the genius and the stupidity involved in one of the greatest heists of all time. Incredibly well researched, well written and well narrated. I learnt a fair bit about diamonds in the process, like they're not actually that rare since the advent of modern mining techniques. Debeers hold around 4 billion diamonds in their safe to keep prices artificially high. It's all carefully controlled and if they ever flooded onto the market then Diamonds would be worth very little.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
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