The most famous bank robbery in the history of Spain
As one of the most iconic and historic hotels in Barcelona, ??at Hotel Continental we are passionate about the history and culture of our vibrant and beloved city. And, in this sense, today we want to share you about one of the most outstanding events in Barcelona in the 1980s: the robbery of the Central Bank on Saturday, May 23, 1981, just three months after the failed coup attempt.
The headquarters of the Central Bank had been the Continental Hotel at the beginning of the 20th century
This famous robbery, carried out by a group of highly organized criminals, has been considered one of the most spectacular in the history of Spain. The Central Bank was one of the most important financial institutions in the country at that time, and was located in the heart of the city, in Plaza Catalunya an in a building that at the beginning of the 20th century had been occupied by the current Hotel Continental.
A summary of the main facts
A dozen robbers broke into the bank one Saturday morning, detaining all the workers and customers who were there. The robbery itself had two objectives, on one hand, the purely pecuniary, about 600 million pesetas were robbed and, on the other, to rescue for their interests some documents that compromised the entire history of what had happened in Madrid three months ago and that could have shaken Spanish democracy: the 1981 coup d’état. The bank robbery turned out badly for the criminals who, as a result of the nerves caused by losing one of them because of a shot by a police sniper, ended up walking out the door. Of course, before leaving, they forced them to exchange clothes with those of the employees or clients to confuse the police on their way out.
The event experienced from the Continental Hotel
The Continental hotel, which is located right next to the Bank, was besieged and hotel guests and workers could not enter or leave. Teresa, the receptionist, was working that Saturday morning and was unable to leave the hotel until the bank was released.
When the denouement occurred, client workers and criminals ran out of the bank doors and the police forced them to lie on the ground. 5 men took a risk and decided to run down the Ramblas and entered the first portal they found, that was, the Continental hotel. They arrived at the reception and told Teresa very nervous that they were bank workers and that they had just escaped and if they could have a bathroom to clean up. She very promptly agreed and showed them the courtesy bathroom and, since there were 5 of them, she opened a nearby room for them. While all this was happening, one of the men disappeared and hid in the corridors of the hotel. While the four men were in the bathroom. Very perceptive, Teresa called the police reporting that some men had entered from the bank. The police showed up and took them… all except the one who had hidden.
By Sunday night, things were more or less back to normal. And our Father, José María Malagarriga Miralbell, was able to go to the hotel to see how Teresa was and so she was also able to go home, after the scare and the situation she experienced.
Pilar Vallet, wife of José María and our mother, is also the living protagonist of this story. When she went to the hotel to work early Monday morning, when she was dismantling a room to do some sewing work, she found 300,000 pesetas and a gun charger under the mattress. This amount was half of what the bank robbers managed to steal: 600,000 pesetas (approx. 3,600 euros). These 300,000 pesetas were all the loot that was recovered from the robbery: Our mother, as a good person, did not hesitate to call the police to come and she gave that money to the authorities.
That same Monday, a little later, my mother was inspecting the corridors of the hotel, suddenly, in a small room with vacuum cleaners, a man appeared to her. Surprised, the two stood still, he uttered “for our children” and ran away: that was the only robber who was never tried for the crime. He fled to France and did not return…
Today, the building where the Central Bank was located has been converted into a huge clothing store. In addition, references to this famous robbery can still be found in the city of Barcelona, ??such as the film about the events entitled Atraco al Banco Central (1983) or the film “El Lobo” (2004) that recreates the story of one of the robbers who participated in the robbery.
In short, the robbery of the Central Bank of Barcelona in 1981 is a fascinating story that is part of the history of this wonderful city.
From Hotel Continental, we hope that this short journey through the events has aroused your interest in learning more about Barcelona’s past, and we encourage you to explore its many corners full of history and culture.
We look forward to sharing more stories and adventures on your next visit to the city!