In “The biggest bank heist in History (and why you’ve never heard of It)”, the narrator explores the details of the largest bank heist in history, which took place in Iraq. Approximately $600 million was stolen from the tax authority, uncovering a web of corruption and manipulation. The heist was orchestrated by Nori Al-Maliki, who used his charm and manipulation to expedite the process of obtaining fraudulent checks. The money was then transferred to different safe houses and zones in Baghdad, before being taken out of the country. The heist is also viewed as a potential political maneuver to undermine the pro-Iran camp and topple the struggling government, adding to the complexity of the situation. The fate of the stolen money and the potential consequences for those involved remain uncertain.
The heist involved the theft of approximately $600 million from the tax authority. Hussein Kanbar, a former resident of Iraq, was called upon by the Finance Minister to assist in the investigation. Kanbar formed a team of accountants and lawyers to uncover the details of the heist. They discovered that the missing funds came from an account intended for unclaimed rebates. Further investigation revealed that 247 fraudulent checks had been written, all to just five companies. One particular beneficiary, Nour al-Hair, stood out due to his charm and ability to manipulate others into participating in corruption. The complexity of the heist suggested that it was not the work of a single individual, prompting the team to conduct further inquiries in Baghdad.
The main character, Nori Al-Maliki, would arrive in a limousine at the tax authority building, leave his security escort on the ground floor, and confidently make his way into any room he desired. He would then request repayment on behalf of a fictitious company, which would result in large checks from the tax authority. Normally, obtaining the necessary signatures from 12 officials would take weeks, but Al-Maliki somehow managed to expedite the process and obtain the checks much quicker. The money would then be transferred from the tax authority to the Rafidain bank, and from there, distributed to the beneficiaries. The challenges of stealing $2.5 billion in cash, as the highest value banknote in Iraq was the 50,000 dinar bill, worth only about $35. The stolen money would be transported to different safe houses and zones in Baghdad and eventually transferred out of the country.
It is suggested that the bank heist in Iraq was possibly an attempt by the pro-American camp to embarrass the pro-Iran camp and undermine their power. However, the investigation into the heist also aimed to discredit and bring down the struggling government. Although Prime Minister Kadmi was toppled, the new pro-Iranian Prime Minister Sudani vowed to recover the stolen money. The release of one of the accused, Nor Zahair, raised suspicions of high-level protection, and the government later shifted its focus from the perpetrators of the heist to those who exposed it. Former Prime Minister Academy and his allies fled to London, further adding to the political turmoil in Iraq.
It is revealed that a significant amount of money disappeared through the airport, raising questions about who is responsible for its disappearance. As Nicholas interviews Iraqi politicians and officials, he realizes that despite their furious opposition, they are all part of the same elite circle in Iraq. This system of corruption and complicity reminds him of the story of the murder on the Orient Express, where everyone on the train was involved in the crime. Months after the heist, it remains unclear how much money has been recovered, with suspicions that it is being redistributed or used for money laundering schemes. While it is uncertain if there will be serious consequences for those involved, Iraq’s elite continues to argue, and the rest of the stolen money remains missing.