Did Book Reveal Mastermind of Audacious 1976 Heist?

Jacques Cassandri, 74, is on trial
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 13, 2018 3:12 AM CST
'Heist of the Century' Mastermind on Trial
A police van arrives at a police station in Marseille, France.   (AP Photo/Claude Paris)

Prosecutors in France say he was the mastermind behind the "heist of the century"—though "mastermind" might not be the best word for somebody who writes a book implicating himself in an unsolved crime. Jacques Cassandri, a 74-year-old organized crime figure in Marseille, is on trial for the audacious 1976 robbery of a branch of Societe Generale in Nice, AFP reports. In the heist, a gang spent months tunneling from the sewers into a bank vault, which they raided over a weekend. On the Monday, bank staff found the vault welded shut and a message on a wall inside: "Sans arme, sans violence, et sans haine"—"Without weapons, without violence, and without hate." The haul of 29 million francs, around $10.4 million at the exchange rate of the time, was never recovered.

Cassandri—who was convicted in the 1970s of involvement with the "French Connection" drug ring—was quickly identified by police eight years ago after he wrote a book under a pen name portraying himself as the heist's mastermind, the BBC reports. He said he was tired of another robber, Albert Spaggiari, getting credit for organizing the heist. Police found the manuscript on his computer and he eventually confessed to orchestrating the robbery, possibly unaware that while the statute of limitations had expired for that crime, he could still be charged with money laundering. Cassandri's fortune appears to "draw its hidden origin from the Nice heist bounty," prosecutors said in court Monday, per the Telegraph. Cassandri's lawyer argued that the novel "is not a source of proof." (More bank heist stories.)

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