photographers taking picture of tunnel

photographers taking picture of tunnel

No one knows who was behind the robbery of the Banco Central in Brazil to this day, 16 years after it happened. They had it all.

On August 6th and 7th in the year 2005 in Fortaleza, Brazil, a band of heinous criminals ended up renting a house at 1071 Rua 25 de Marco in Fortaleza. It was just one block away from their intended target: the skyscraper in the center of Fortaleza. One of just nine buildings part of the Banco central do Brazil, which is Brazil’s main source of monetary authority. No one suspected a robbery.

Lead Up to the Robbery

The group of criminals posed as a gardening business called Grama Sintetica or Synthetic Grass in English. They put a landscaping sign in front of their newly rented house and paid for advertisements in newspapers in the area to appear authentic. Witnesses later reported that they had been seen giving out free baseball caps to promote their business, so it seemed completely legitimate. These witnesses also later reported that a lot of trucks were seen going in and out of their building, but since they were reportedly a gardening business, it didn’t seem that unusual until after the bank robbery.

But no one knew the truth; that the trucks were there to haul away dirt from the tunnel. The group, made up of about six to ten men according to witnesses, dug from their building’s basement all the way into the bank’s vault, thirteen feet under the ground. The group did their work. They lined the tunnel with wooden beams and canvas so that it would hold up properly. They even installed air conditioners inside it so that they could stay cool while they worked.

Avoided pipes underground and dug during the day. The noise from the city’s traffic above them blocked out any noise. That’s why the police—and no one else—even noticed what they were doing. Investigators later suspected that it must have cost from one hundred to two hundred thousand dollars to build the tunnel. It was finally ready for the robbery.

The Main Event

On August 6th, in the middle of the night, the thieves drilled through three feet of solid steel reinforced concrete into the vault. At this late hour on the weekend, the bank was closed. Not even the security cameras or motion sensors picked up their movements or anything out of the ordinary. A shipment of brand new notes had just arrived and were waiting in the vault to be released into circulation. A separate stash of old notes had been withdrawn and were waiting to be processed by bankers. The robbers seemed to know all of this and they immediately started taking all the old notes. Five massive containers were used to carry the money. It weighed three and a half metric tons in total—the same weight as seven fully grown polar bears. They used a pulley system to tug the containers through the tunnel.

Over a hundred and sixty seven million reais were stolen. Equal to about sixty nine point eight million US dollars. It made a record for the most money stolen from a bank at the time the robbery took place.

By the time the weekend ended on Monday, the workers at the bank came in as usual. The robbers had escaped in eleven different getaway cars and were long gone by that time. They had done well to cover their tracks, especially since they split off in different directions across Brazil to avoid being caught.

Untraceable

The big problem was that they had taken the old notes, because the bank kept no record of the old notes’ serial numbers, so the police couldn’t even trace the bills to find the robbers. But they had left behind a few clues, including a single fingerprint, a pre-paid cell phone card that had been dropped inside the tunnel, and the ID document that was used to rent the building. The name was Paulo Sergio de Souza, who was a rich businessman. One of the robbers had bought ten cars in one day with cash. The police tracked down the trailer used to transport the cars and found bundles of 50 real notes. Eventually, they were able to arrest thirteen people and recover eleven percent of the money, but no one knows who was ultimately behind the robbery.