Albert takes a bubble bath

In 1989, Albert Spaggiari, a photographer who confessed to being the mastermind of an elaborate 1976 bank robbery on the Riviera, was found dead outside his mother’s house.

image found here

He was 57 years old and had reportedly suffered from lung cancer. Before his death, Mr. Spaggiari had evaded and taunted law enforcement officials for 12 years, since his escape through a window in a magistrate’s office. His picture periodically turned up in newspapers and magazines, above captions such as ”Hello from Albert.”

image found here

The robbery took place in Nice in 1976. A team of 20 men, led by Mr. Spaggiari, burst into the vault of the Societe Generale bank from a 25-foot tunnel they had carved over the previous several weeks between the bank and a branch of the city sewer system. They worked from Friday to Sunday, emptying safe-deposit boxes and seizing most of the bank’s cash reserves. The group, which became known as the ”sewer gang,” escaped with $8 – $10 million in gold, cash, jewelry and gems. During their stay in the vault, they cooked meals, drank wine and used antique silver tureens as toilets.

image from the movie found here

When officials discovered the scene on Monday, July 19, they found a message from the gang, ”Without Guns, Without Violence, Without Hate,” scrawled on one wall of the vault. 

image found here

After a lengthy investigation, detectives closed in on Spaggiari in Nice and pried his confession from him. He was jailed shortly thereafter but escaped on March 10, 1977, from a magistrate’s office. He complained of the heat, got up and opened a window, and leaped out of it, landing on a car nine feet below. He was whisked away on the back of a motorcycle. The driver, Gerard Rang, was later arrested, and Mr. Spaggiari was sentenced in absentia to life in prison.

Six other men were arrested with Mr. Spaggiari in the robbery, which inspired a film, ”The Sewers of Paradise.” Three of them were acquitted and the others were given prison sentences of five to seven years.

image found here

In his book Mr. Spaggiari complained of the messy conditions under which he worked to bring off the Nice heist. He also mourned that he was unable to open 3,500 safe-deposit boxes because he lacked the proper equipment, and described using massive quantities of bubble bath to help scrub off the sewer slime.

scrubbing off in the bath found here

Published in: on January 16, 2012 at 7:39 am  Comments (47)  
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47 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I sort of like him!

    • Me too. He was rather an attractive devil wasn’t he? Ah that Gallic charm.

  2. I wonder how his love life was like.
    Would be nIce to know :)

    • I’d say he had a pretty full love life

  3. Like to think of these guys as rascals not criminals but then remember they are not robbing the bad old bank, they steal from the people whose assets are in the bank. If he got my $500 I would not think he was a cool guy.

  4. ”Without Guns, Without Violence, Without Hate” – count me in!

  5. I’m picturing him in the bath, smoking a Gauloises.

  6. Although I’m not quite picturing him a bath-tub, you can put me down as another irresponsible “fan” of the loveable rogue.

    Especially the 1970’s criminal type – back when most police-forces just couldn’t keep pace with the underbelly’s cunning.

    I like pretty much anything with Cassel…but ever seen a film called “Mesrine”, Nursemyra? Could right up the dark n seedy alleyway your piece inhabits! x

    • Oh yes, Mesrine #1 and #2. I love Vincent Cassel

  7. The weekend in the vault sounds kind of fun until you think about what they must have smelled like.

  8. *in a bath-tub
    *could be right up your…

    CAFFEINE ME NURSEMYRA!!!

  9. I’m going to chuck my staid office job and think up a romantic heist like this one. My life is so dull in comparison.

    Who am I kidding? 24 hours from now I’ll be sitting at my desk. A victim of venomous fate.

  10. loveable and scruffy old scoundrel! i was warmly feeling the love in this post until i got to the Spock and Kirk bubblefest. ouch. my eyes! my brain!

    • you could always come between them daisyfae

  11. 5-7 years really isn’t that bad of a sentence considering.

  12. once did the tour of the sewers of paris.

    • I wish I’d thought to do that while I was in Paris

  13. No guns and no violence is certain to endear…. certainly more than a balaclava and a sawn off shotgun!

  14. Sigh… only in France do criminals get away with such taunts. They don’t last too long in the US… someone’s always willing to rat them out to the FBI for a price.

  15. Soap scum and sewer slime = a very bad day at the office.

  16. Pretty Rififi – without the carnage. I like this! Rififi btw came out in the same year as “To catch a thief”, 1955. Sad to learn that he died from lung cancer, terrible death. The “gentleman thief” has a nice tradition.

    • I loved Rififi – one of my favourite films

  17. Ouch. That Spock and Kirk slash was an unexpected ending!

    • I thought you’d like that one queenie

      • I weirdly like it in a pulling-a-scab-off-my-knee way.

  18. What an accomplishment to be sentenced, in absentia, to life in prison. And what a frustration to have all those un-openable boxes inside the vault. Sort of sounds like a dream sequence.

    And yeah, what queenwilly sez. Ouch. My eyes are burning.

  19. Eight million can buy a lot of bubble bath.

  20. A lovely tale – no guns, no violence, no hate. Always find it romantic when we find a criminal like this.

  21. Odd though that he died living with his mother at such at old age.

    • I don’t think he was living with his mother. That’s where his friends left his body so he could get a proper funeral

  22. Count me in with the rest of the loveable-rogue-lovers!

    • Consider yourself counted Archie

  23. Why would this guy stay in Nice after successfully getting away with that much loot!!

  24. My boss actually told us the story of the tunnel during a pep talk on the first day we were back at work for the year. I thought it was interesting… but knowing that he jumped out of the window and escaped is even more interesting

  25. Did they get the money back?

  26. The Sewers of Paradise – that would’ve made a good name for a very black sequel to The Umbrellas of Cherbourg.

    • Ha! you’re right Nick

  27. That last pic is so wrong ;)

  28. You do profile the most interesting scoundrels and rogues.

  29. A highly ingenious robbery. They must have left the bank premises pretty whiffy as well. I wouldn’t mind a haul of $10 million, but I think I’d draw the line at crawling through a sewerage system to get hold of it.

    • I’d put a peg on my nose and go for it.

  30. Bubble bath? Hey, whatever gets you clean and fresh after a heist…

  31. Wine and silver tureen loos, of course, essential in the business of heisting!

  32. Audacious Albert – fabulous!

  33. Spock and Kirk…sigh.

  34. Sewer slime … now then, who’s hungry?


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