Gunmen Disguised as Police Steal $30 Million in Gold from Brazil

Police inspect the vehicles that were left by suspects involved in heist carried out at Sao Paulo's Guarulhos international airport, in the Jardim Pantanal neighborhood of Sao Paulo, Brazil, Thursday, July 25, 2019. Authorities at Sao Paulo's Guarulhos international airport say eight armed men raided a terminal and escaped with …
Paulo Lopes/Futura Press via AP

One of the biggest heists in the history of Brazil occurred on Thursday afternoon when armed criminals disguised as police officers stole a huge trove of gold and other precious metals from São Paulo-Guarulhos International Airport. As Bloomberg News put it, the thieves stole $30 million in gold in less than three minutes.

The gunmen rolled into the airport using trucks painted to look like official vehicles of the Brazilian federal police. Four armed suspects disguised as police officers were caught on surveillance video directing airport employees to load 1,650 pounds of gold bound for New York and Zurich into the trucks, which were later found abandoned some 12 miles away from the airport.

Two airport employees were taken hostage by the thieves but were later released unharmed. Brazilian state media reported no shots were fired and no injuries were suffered during the robbery.

Brazilian federal authorities believe the thieves had inside information about airport operations and security. According to some local media reports, there were at least eight members of the criminal gang in total, and they kidnapped the family of a senior airport official to compel his cooperation in the robbery.

The Rio Times noted that “high risk, high reward thefts have recently become more frequent in Brazil” because gangs see the theft of valuables in transit as a “profitable alternative to the narcotics trade.” 

A prominent example of another heist that sounded like something “straight from a movie plot,” as the Rio Times put it, was an October 2018 attempt to tunnel into a bank vault and steal an estimated $250 million in cash. If this caper had not been foiled by the authorities, it would have gone down as the biggest bank robbery in history.

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