Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The Banco Central burglary at Fortaleza

On the weekend of August 6 and August 7, 2005 a gang of burglars, suspected to be either the Gang of the Tattooed or Primeiro Comando da Capital, tunneled into the Banco Central in Fortaleza. They removed five containers of 50-real notes, with an estimated value of 164,755,150 reals (US$69.8 million, £38.6 million, €56 million). The money was uninsured; a bank spokeswoman stated that the risks were too small to justify the insurance premiums. The burglars managed to evade or disable the bank's internal alarms and sensors; the burglary remained undiscovered until the bank opened for business on the morning of Monday, August 8.
Three months earlier, the gang of burglars had rented an empty property in the centre of the city and then tunneled 78 meters (255 ft) beneath two city blocks to a position beneath the bank.
The gang had renovated a house and put up a sign indicating it was a landscaping company selling both natural and artificial grass as well as plants. Neighbours, who estimated that the gang consisted of between six and ten men, described how they had seen van-loads of soil being removed daily, but understood this to be a normal activity of the business. The tunnel, being roughly 70 cm (2.3 ft) square and running 4 meters (13 ft) beneath the surface, was well-constructed: it was lined with wood and plastic and had its own lighting and air conditioning systems.
On the final weekend, the gang broke through 1.1 meters (3.6 ft) of steel-reinforced concrete to enter the bank vault. The bank notes weighed approximately 3,500 kg (approx. 7,700 lbs) and would have required a considerable amount of time and effort to remove.
On October 22, 2005 the body of the suspected mastermind, Luis Fernando Ribeiro, 26, was found on an isolated road near Camanducaia, 200 miles (320 km) west of Rio de Janeiro. He had been shot seven times and had marks on his wrists as if he had been handcuffed.

Five men were arrested September 28 with about $5.4 million of the money and told the police they had helped dig the tunnel. So far, authorities have recovered more than $7 million but $63 million remains unaccounted for.