Tag Archives: foreign financial institution

Offshore Safe Deposit Boxes: Bank Versus Private, Part 2

Last Friday, I started comparing/contrasting offshore bank safe deposit boxes and their private, non-bank counterparts.

I noted both types share the same function in that they’re secured containers rented to store valuables in.

I added that most Americans needing safe deposit boxes overseas would probably look at foreign financial institutions (e.g., banks) to start with due to the following:

• Private vaults are still somewhat of a novel concept here.
• A number of Americans attach a Hollywood/mainstream media-induced negative connotation to private vaulting facilities.
• For the most part, U.S. banks have a decent reputation when it comes to their safe deposit box operations, which likely influences their selection of the type of facility to store their valuables abroad.
• Finally, private vaults- both here in the United States and overseas- have suffered from some bad publicity lately.

Today, I’m going to talk about that last point. Two incidents in the last few years have made some question the private vault model. First, there’s the 24/7 Private Vaults kidnapping and robbery of April 14, 2012. From the FOX 5 website (Las Vegas) back on April 17, 2012:

A safe deposit box facility that offers “untraceable privacy” to its clients was recently raided by a trio of masked thieves, Las Vegas Metro police said Tuesday.

The robbery happened just after 5 a.m. Saturday at 24/7 Private Vaults on Sunset Road near McLeod Drive.

Authorities said the thieves restrained an employee and looted several of the boxes in the facility. The number of items stolen and their net worth was not immediately known…

Second, there’s Operation Rize, where British police confiscated thousands of London safe deposit boxes back in June 2008. Tim Castle reported on the Reuters UK website on June 2, 2008:

Police seized thousands of safe deposit boxes from three vaults in central and north London on Monday after receiving intelligence they were used by criminals to store cash, guns and drugs.

Scotland Yard said officers raided vaults in Park Lane, Swiss Cottage and Edgware run by a privately run firm, Safe Deposit Centres.

Two people were arrested in the raids, which also included two other business premises and three private addresses in London and Hertfordshire.

Police sources said up to 90 percent of the boxes could contain the proceeds of crime and other illegal items such as child pornography…

Kidnapping and robbery? Wholescale confiscation of safe deposit boxes? One might think after reading the above that valuables in private vaults may not only be at real risk of seizure by criminals, but now government/law enforcement as well.

Truth be told, bank safe deposit boxes are just as vulnerable. Regular readers of Offshore Safe Deposit Boxes may remember last week I blogged about the bombing of a German bank branch in which the contents of 100 safe deposit boxes were robbed. And the other day I came across the following from Elisabeth Hulette on The Virginian-Pilot website:

After renting her safe deposit box for 24 years, Catherine Holloway thought the box was, well, safe.

But in August, she arrived at the Wells Fargo bank branch at 1068 Independence Blvd. to find the lock had been drilled and the contents stolen.

Gone were her two car titles, a life insurance policy and her husband’s discharge papers from World War II. Gone was the gold pocket watch her husband inherited at age 7, when his father died, and the heirloom mint coin sets…

According to a search warrant affidavit filed by a police detective in Circuit Court, someone in December claiming to be the box’s owner said she’d lost her key.

The bank’s manager called Stanley Security to drill the lock, and the contents were given to the customer, the affidavit says…

Yep. It’s not just the private vaults and their clients that are victims of recent criminal activity. Both types of vaulting facilities are vulnerable in this area, and operators should strive to secure clients’ valuables to the best of their ability. Particularly as safe deposit box theft seems to be rising. Hulette added later in her piece:

Thefts from safe deposit boxes are rare, but they’re becoming more common, said Dave McGuinn, president of Safe Deposit Specialists in Houston. He has consulted with banks on safe deposit procedures for 45 years but said much of his business recently has shifted to the courts, where defense attorneys bring him in as an expert in cases of safe deposit theft.

He said 16 cases similar to Holloway’s are sitting on his desk right now, many from “mega banks” such as Wells Fargo, Chase and Bank of America, where he says employees aren’t trained well to spot and stop thieves…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

As for Operation Rize and offshore non-bank safe deposit boxes possibly being at increased risk of seizure these days? There’s more to that story than most people probably know.

More next time…

(Editor’s note: Part 3 published here.)

By Christopher E. Hill
Offshore Safe Deposit Boxes (www.offshoresafedepositboxes.com)


“Thieves raid Vegas safe deposit box business.” FOX 5. 17 Apr. 2012. (http://www.fox5vegas.com/story/17517145/thieves-raid-vegas-safe-deposit-box-business). 29 Oct. 2014.

Castle, Tim. “Police hit safes in organised crime raids.” Reuters. 2 June 2008. (http://uk.reuters.com/article/2008/06/02/uk-britain-boxes-idUKL0275401620080602). 29 Oct. 2014.

Hulette, Elisabeth. “Safe deposit box contents stolen in Va. Beach.” The Virginian-Pilot. 26 Oct. 2014. (http://hamptonroads.com/2014/10/safe-deposit-box-contents-stolen-va-beach). 29 Oct. 2014.