This particular theft is just like the “Ocean’s Eleven” movie, except it doesn’t take place in Las Vegas, but in Libya. A treasure that was stored inside two wooden chests was secured inside a bank vault. The treasure consisted of thousands of coins, jewelry and figurines, some dating back to 2600 years ago. Throughout the years it has stayed inside the bank, unmonitored even though it had significant historical and financial value. Then one day, at the opportune moment, it was stolen. It was stolen last winter when around the downtown bank, a popular uprising was happening. The thief was able to gain access into vault and because the treasure was left unattended, they were able to make off with it.
Interpol has been investigating, and other questions seem to arise like how they were able to steal the treasure. Most of them have come to agree on one thing, that the heist was an inside job. “I cannot say who did it,” said Ahmed Buzaian, an archaeology professor at Benghazi University, who was also part of the investigation. “But they knew exactly what was inside.”
The official story has similar traits as if some type of magician was able to pull off something you would see from the “Ocean’s Eleven” movie. In late March, only a month after rebels in Benghazi had removed the forces of Col Muammar Qaddafi and after the NATO began airstrikes in support of rebels, there was a group of thieves who broke into the National Commercial Bank of Benghazi, which was an adjacent building that provided housing for the secret police and whom protestors began to light on fire at the beginning of the revolution.
When they were inside the bank, said Osama El-Ketaf, the head of the bank’s legal office, they drilled directly into the vault, a little more than two feet into the steel-reinforced concrete. The hole, he said, was big enough for a skinny adult or a child. In the vault contained a collection of safes and chests, where the thieves used additional power tools to rip them apart.
Inside the safes and chests were about 8000 gold, silver and bronze coins including maybe 300 rings, necklaces, bracelets and medallions and other 40 or so bronze and ivory figurines. These historical treasures were discovered over the first half of the last century in five Greco-Roman cities in northeastern Libya. It was taken and traveled during the Italian retreat of its former colony in World War II, then returned in 1961, where it was placed inside the vault.
“There was a large, old-fashioned safe and a normal-size safe,” El-Ketaf said. “They sawed through the hinges of one, maybe using a circular saw. We found an extension cord leading from the building next door to the hole. They cut through the back of the other safe.” Then finally transported the treasure up to the surface.