Authorities Study Camera Footage in $74M U.K. Bank Heist
Thursday, February 23, 2006
LONDON — Detectives studied closed-circuit television footage Thursday in the search for thieves who impersonated police officers and robbed the equivalent of up to $74 million from a security company in one of the largest heists in British history.
The money was stolen Wednesday from a cash center at Tonbridge in Kent County, a Bank of England spokesman said on condition of anonymity, in line with bank policy.
There was still no exact figure for the amount of money stolen. No one was injured in the robbery.
Police were studying closed-circuit TV footage from the site, but it was not yet clear whether the cameras had been disabled during the robbery.
"These people knew where the money was and how much there was," money laundering expert Jeffrey Robinson told the BBC. "They planned how to get in and how to get out again."
The heist at Securitas Cash Management Ltd. began when some of the thieves, dressed as police officers, stopped the firm's manager as he drove home Tuesday. The manager got into their car, which he believed to be a police vehicle, and was handcuffed, authorities said.
At the same time, another team of thieves went to the manager's house, saying he had been in an accident. The men convinced his wife and young son to leave the home and go with them.
The first team, with the manager in the car, met up with a white van and another group of thieves. The manager was placed in the van, which then headed toward the Tonbridge depot.
The manager allegedly was told to cooperate or his family would be hurt.
Early Wednesday morning, the thieves in the van met up with accomplices driving a large white truck at the depot. The thieves tied up 15 employees and started loading cash into the truck, police said.
It is believed the thieves were in the depot for more than an hour before driving off with the cash, police said.
About an hour later, the staff managed to escape and call police.
If the amount stolen is confirmed, it would exceed the $46.1 million netted in a December 2004 raid at the Northern Bank's Belfast headquarters. Three men — including a former bank employee — have been charged in connection with that robbery, considered the biggest cash theft in British history.
The governor of the Bank of England has asked for a review of the security arrangements for the storage of bank notes. The bank spokesman said Securitas had already reimbursed them, and there will be no cost to Britain's taxpayers.
The single-floored, squat brown building is windowless and just a five-minute walk from the center of Tonbridge, a small market town 30 miles southeast of London.
The building, on a small industrial estate, is surrounded by 6-foot-high steel fencing, and security cameras cover every entrance. Steel traps are in place to prevent unwanted vehicles entering the compound, which acts as a car park for employees. There are no signs to indicate the building stores vast amounts of money.
Why kind of morons keep that much cash on hand?
What kind of morons go to another bank the next day and try to negotiate bills still in the wrappers from the loot?