If you enjoyed Netflix’s La Casa De Papel (Money Heist), or their other big, The Great Heist, then you will absolutely enjoy Kaleidoscope. It’s a new, non-linear, semi-anthology series about a fictionalized heist of about $7 billion in bonds. I say fictionalized because Kaleidoscope is loosely based on a true story.
In 2012, Hurricane Sally hit Manhattan (along with other areas) and flooded secret underground vaults, soaking around $70 billion in bonds and stock certificates. Those are the rough numbers, and the real damage was never disclosed. Kaleidoscope’s creator, Eric Garcia, saw the situation as an excellent opportunity for a ‘cover-up heist,’ where the idea for the show was born.
We know Kaleidoscope is fictionalized – no heist took place in real life – but if it were actually real, how big would the theft in Kaleidoscope be? How does it compare to the biggest real-life heists in history? It’s time to find out.
How big was the heist in Kaleidoscope?
Let’s play pretend and say that the heist in Kaleidoscope was real. How much money was stolen?
Well, according to the New York Post, around 1.3 million bearer bonds and stock certificates were soaked and almost destroyed, worth around $70 billion in cold-hard cash.
Now, they did say that the DTCC – a depository controlled by Wall Street’s biggest financial firms – wouldn’t disclose the exact amount. But, the depository’s biggest members include huge financial players like JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America, UBS, and Deutsche Bank, so it’s safe to say the numbers were colossal.
So, what about Kaleidoscope? Did they follow the approximate numbers? In a behind-the-scenes look into the series posted on YouTube by Netflix, the creator Eric Garcia says ‘yes’:
“After Hurricane Sandy, $70 billion worth of bonds got flooded in the basement of the DTCC, which is a large clearing effort that’s owned by a bunch of the big banks. To my mind, I was like, ‘Well, that’s a perfect coverup for a heist!’”
Now, in the show, the number is $7 billion, not $70 billion, but still, how does it compare to other grand heists in history?
The Great Heist
Although this one might not rival the greatest heists in human history, I wanted to include The Great Heist in our list because it was also adapted to a Netflix show a couple of years back.
In 1994, the Medellin Cartel performed the biggest heist in Colombian history, breaking into the Bank of the Republic of Colombia and stealing over 24 billion Colombian pesos. The leader of the robbers was Benigno Suarez Rincon, one of the highest-ranking members of the Medellin Cartel that was, at that moment, led by Gonzalo Rodriguez Gacha.
The robbers were eventually caught, and 24 billion pesos amounts to about $5 million in today’s exchange rates. However, in October 1994, the exchange rates were different, and 24 billion pesos amounted to about $28.5 million. Not the biggest heist in history, but still quite huge.
The Pink Panther jewelry heists
The movie series wasn’t named after the robbers – the robbers were named after the movie series. The group gained notoriety in 2003, but some say they have been active all over the world for over 20 years.
According to some sources, the Pink Panthers were responsible for over 370 heists worldwide, but mainly in Europe. Although, their self-proclaimed brain of the operations, Olivera Ćirković, claimed that she was a part of over 1700 heists herself and lost track of how much money they amassed over the years.
The estimated value of their heists is around $500 million, but the numbers could actually be way, way higher. One of their biggest hits was at the Harry Winston jewelry store in Paris, where the value of stolen goods was well over $100 million.
Still, even if you take $1 billion as the group’s overall number, it pales in comparison to what Kaleidoscope is selling – $6 billion short, to be precise.
The big US taxes heist in Iraq
This one still baffles me the most because no one was ever held accountable for the theft, and no one was ever caught. During the American invasion of Iraq, somewhere between $6-11 billion was stolen in US tax money that was held in Saddam Hussein’s Presidential Palace – that anyone could just walk in and out of freely.
Those who were responsible for keeping the money safe simply couldn’t account for the money. Back then, Henry Waxman was the Chairman of the US House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and he stated that many of the hired private military companies were responsible for the heist, though no arrests or prosecutions were ever made.
In fact, the US government kept everyone involved silent, banning them from talking about the missing money. Even the huge discrepancy in the amount is ridiculous – $6-11 billion isn’t exactly a small margin.
Antwerp diamond heist
The exact way in which the Antwerp diamond heist was performed remains a mystery. It’s dubbed as the largest diamond heist of all time and happened in 2003. The robbers stole diamonds, gold, and other types of jewelry worth well over $100 million, and though some arrests were made, most of the stolen goods were never found.
The weird thing about it is that the robbers managed to open well over 100 safe deposit boxes, all of which were made of steel and had locks with over 100 million possible combinations. The stolen amount is nowhere near the $7 billion seen in Kaleidoscope, but it was still absolutely huge.
Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum heist
One could argue that this was, by far, the biggest heist ever, and it was made by two people alone. In 1990, Boston celebrated St. Patrick’s day, and the two guys took the opportunity to dress up as cops, enter the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, and steal 13 pieces of art, including a Manet, several Rembrandts, and several Degas artworks.
The rough estimate on the value of the stolen paintings is around $500 million, but when I said it was the biggest heist ever, I said that because you can’t put a price on the artwork that was stolen. It’s absolutely priceless, and the worst thing about it is that most of the stolen paintings were never recovered.
The museum is still offering a $10 million reward for anyone with information leading to the recovery of the stolen artworks.
The British Bank of the Middle East heist
This one happened in 1976 in Beirut, and the robbers were never even identified, let alone caught. It was a quick in-and-out job, probably linked to the Palestinian Liberation Organization. The armed-to-the-teeth robbers came into the bank, blew up the bank’s walls, and gathered as much gold, diamonds, and cash as they could carry.
The total value of the heist was around $44.5 million, which, considering inflation, would be around $233 million today. Never caught, never recovered.
The Dar Es Salaam Bank heist
A few details are actually known about the Dar Es Salaam Bank heist performed in Iraq in 2007. The First baffling detail is why the bank had such a massive amount of US dollars on hand, to begin with.
Anyways, it’s believed that a group of bank security guards formed a plot to steal around $282 million from the bank, and they succeeded, running away with the money and never being caught. However, the last entry on this list will leave you speechless, as it amasses more than all the other entries – combined.
The Bernie Madoff Case
Now, this might not be a heist, per se, but it might as well be. Bernie Madoff delivered the largest, most elaborate, diabolical Ponzi scheme in history. He took money from investors, then took more money from new investors to pay off the old ones while taking a big chunk for himself.
The endless cycle was doomed to collapse, but when it finally did, the investors were already conned out of a staggering $65 billion. That makes even our fictional super-heist in Kaleidoscope look tiny! The guy was caught and sentenced to 150 years in prison, but hey, he lived a good life.