A group of robbers stole a record 65.2 million US dollars by tunneling into the vault of a regional branch of the Brazilian Central Bank, admitted officials in Rio do Janeiro.
Apparently over the course of several months the thieves dug a tunnel from a house some 200 meters away and then last weekend finally broke through and made off with the cash from Central Bank branch in the northern city of Fortaleza, capital of the state of Ceará, in the Brazilian Northeast.
The massive theft was only discovered Monday morning.
Although the bank has not announced how much money is missing, the Federal Police in Ceará state said the haul total led an estimated 150 million reais, approximately US$ 65.2 million.
The money apparently was in relatively small bills, some of which were to be withdrawn from circulation, which makes it virtually impossible to trace it.
Authorities acknowledge that the largest bank heist on record in Brazil happened July 1999 when about 20 gunmen invaded a Banco do Estado de São Paulo (Banespa) branch and, after subduing 15 guards, fled with just under the equivalent of US$ 17 million.
Central Bank authorities said that the regional Fortaleza office had modern alarm systems and the vault concrete and steel-reinforced walls are two meters thick.
The police said that the house from which the tunnel was dug had been rented three months ago by a group who said they were intending to manufacture artificial turf.
Neighbors reported that between six and ten people worked at the house but no customers ever came to call.
Besides every day a loaded van was driven away from the site, but they never suspected that it was filled with dug-up earth from the tunnel.
This article appeared originally in Mercopress – www.mercopress.com.