Albert Spaggiari - French criminals

Albert Spaggiari was born in the Hautes-Alpes département.

Spaggiari is reported to have committed his first robbery in order to offer a diamond to a girlfriend.

During the Algerian War he worked for the OAS, a clandestine anti-de Gaulle and anti-decolonisation organization. Despite the fact that he was probably more a sympathizer than an activist, Spaggiari was later sentenced to some years in prison for his OAS activities.

In 1976 he was the owner of a photographic studio in Nice, living in a house in the hills over Nice named Les Oies Sauvages. But he apparently quickly became bored with his law-abiding middle-class life. Later accounts described him as cavalier and stylish.

When Spaggiari heard that the sewers were close to the vault of the Société Générale bank, he began to plan a break-in into the bank. He decided to do it by digging into the bank vault from below. There were no alarms protecting the vault because it was considered utterly impregnable; the door wall was extremely thick and there was no obvious way to access the other walls.

Spaggiari contacted professional gangsters from Marseille. His men made their way into the sewers and began a two-month effort to dig an eight meter long tunnel from the sewer to under the vault.

On July 16, 1976, during Bastille Day festivities, Spaggiari's gang broke into the vault itself. They opened 400 safe deposit boxes and stole an estimated 60 million francs worth of money, securities and valuables.

According to some accounts, Spaggiari brought his men a meal including wine and pâté, and reportedly they sat down in the vault for a picnic lunch, spending hours picking through the various safety deposit boxes.

At first the French police were baffled. However, by the end of October, on a tip from a former girlfriend, they arrested one of the errant thieves. After a lengthy interrogation he turned over the entire gang, including Spaggiari. When Spaggiari, who had been accompanying the mayor of Nice Jacques Médecin in the Far East as a photographer, returned to Nice, he was arrested at the airport.

During his case hearings, Spaggiari devised an escape plan. He made a fictitious document which he claimed as evidence. He made the document coded so it had to be deciphered by the judge. He distracted judge Richard Bouaziz with this document and then jumped out of a window, landed safely on a parked car and escaped on a waiting motorcycle.

 
 

The escape of Spaggiari would last until the end of his life. He was sentenced in absentia to a life in prison. Reportedly he underwent plastic surgery and spent probably most of the rest of his life in Argentina. However, it is reported that Spaggiari came several times clandestinely to France, visiting his mother or his wife "Audi".

Remains of the loot from the heist has never been found.