December 20, 2004 A group of men steal more than £26.5 million (approx. 31 million euros) in sterling, dollars and euros from the headquarters of Northern Bank in Belfast, Northern Ireland – the biggest cash robbery in British history. What appeared a meticulously planned raid started on the night of December 19, when men posing as police officers entered a house near Belfast. A Northern Bank official was kidnapped and several members of his family were held hostage at gunpoint in the house. The wife of that bank worker’s supervisor was later kidnapped, and the two employees were told to report for work as normal the following day. Once the bank closed, they were ordered to help the bank robbers load a van with the large amount of cash that was in the bank waiting to be delivered to ATMs just before the busy Christmas period. Police only found out about the robbery late that night, after the last of the hostages had been released. The police, as well as the British and Irish governments, blamed the IRA, who denied responsibility for the raid. So far just one person has been convicted of laundering some of the stolen money and the case remains open.
Also on December 20: France sells 2,140,000 km2 of land to the United States in the Louisiana Purchase (1803); Spanish prime minister Luis Carrero Blanco is killed by a car bomb in Madrid (1973); the United States invades Panama (1989); sovereignty of Macau is transferred from Portugal to China (1999).
Born on December 20: Geoffrey Howe (1926), Jean-Claude Trichet (1942), Uri Geller (1946), Ashley Cole (1980).