Real Heist Stories: The Banco Central Burglary

Greatest Bank Robbery or Another One of the Many?

If you want to perform a big event, you will need to plan it for as long as you can to guarantee you are able to leave no clues behind and be as clean as possible, if not perfect, while doing it. 

Many heists have ended very badly over the years, but others have been recorded in history as perfect crimes that are yet to be resolved. 

The Banco Central burglary will be the first or the latter? A successful robbery, or just another disappointment to the list of burglaries in history? 

It could be as simple as giving you a direct answer, but there’s a lot involved in this burglary, and we will need to cover the details to ensure you get more than a “yes” or no” for the question. 

If you are just as interested as us in this type of story, you will love this one, especially for all the details we will make sure to include. 

When It All Started – Back to 2005

Don’t think we will start right away with the day the incident took pñace because this burglary involves more than a date and a recap of what happened. 

Instead, we have to go back to a few months before it even happened. 

The criminals had rented a property in central London three months before the burglary, which was, of course, discovered after the incident took place. 

They also worked underground when they tunneled 78m (256 ft) beneath two city blocks to reach a location beneath the bank. 

The gang also renovated the property and placed a sign advertising a landscaping business that sells artificial and natural grass. 

The criminals were between six to ten men based on the amount of work and how much time they had to spend working on it. 

Neighbors said they saw vanloads of soil being taken away each day, but this was a regular part of the business. 

The tunnel was approximately 70 cm in size (2.3 ft) wide and ran 4 m (13 ft under the surface). It was well-constructed, with its own lighting system and air circulation systems.

This means they worked for even more than three months on this plan, considering that this was the time it took them to create the tunnel, but how did they come up with the plan? Was it only a two or three days thing? Not at all. 

With this clear, we can start focusing on August 6, 2005, the day when one of the world’s largest heists occurred.

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Train to Investigation – Suspects & Money Found

Unfortunately, this investigation involves more than just following the track of the robbers who were involved. 

By the time, no one expected things to turn out as they did, and we are confident you will be a bit confused when going over the details next. 

First, the police stated several times that the criminals were working on this burglary for months and that the gardening company was, of course, a disguise to make it happen. 

Since the company was working since March and sophisticated equipment was found, like GPS, they know they took the time and proper preparations for the tunnel to work out well. 

During the investigation, a pickup truck with a Grama Sintética logo (Synthetic Turf) was found by police at the rented property. 

The vault contained bolt cutters, blow torch, electric saws, and many others that were used to break through the concrete barrier. The police thought this was their chance to find some clues. However, to prevent fingerprints, the property was covered with burnt lime.

Therefore, nothing in the truck was useful to find some DNA or evidence that could give them a clue about the perpetrators. 

Then, the Brazilian Federal Police were investigating a possible connection between the burglars and car resellers in Fortaleza.

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Two men were arrested by the Minas Gerais by the Military Police on August 10, 2005, while driving a car-carrying vehicle in Sete Lagoas near Belo Horizonte. 

Luckily, three pickup trucks were used to transport more than R$2.13million., which allowed the police to recover it. 

Five men were detained on September 28, 2005, with R$5.22million of the money. They told the police that they helped to dig the tunnel and what seemed to be a job of 6 to 10 men turned out to be more than 20, with 18 suspects still at large. 

Prosecutors claim that the group attempted unsuccessfully to charter an aircraft days before the robbery in order to flee and take the money out of the country.

Luis Fernando Ribeiro (26), one of the alleged masterminds of the crime, was found dead on a remote road 200 miles (320km) west of Rio de Janeiro. 

He was handcuffed on his wrists and had been shot seven more times. “It was definitely because of the robbery,” according to a police official of Minas Gerais.

After the robbery, Ribeiro fled Fortaleza to Sao Paulo and was abducted on October 7, 2005. Ribeiro was held hostage after his family paid R$893,600 as ransom. 

Three police officers were arrested for involvement in the kidnapping, killing, and robbery of the man.

From here, many arrests and events took place.

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A person associated with a former security guard was arrested on October 28, 2005. Three more suspects were also arrested on November 10.

Brazilian authorities discovered R$178,100 in a house in Natal Rio Grande do Norte on August 1, 2006, and recovered this part of the money. 

Inside the tunnel was discovered a prepaid card. The Federal Police found the associated cell phone and wiretapped it. 

On September 1, 2006, a special operation named “Operacao Faccao Toupeira” (Operation Mole Faction) was started, leading the police to arrest 43 people suspected of involvement in the heist, including one of the alleged masterminds, and recovering R$275,100 in cash.

Evandro Jose das Nives, another suspect, was found dead in a Sao Paulo favela on October 3, 2006. On January 28, 2007, Marcio Rafael Pierre, another alleged mastermind, was arrested in Sao Paulo. 

On April 19, also in Sao Paulo, a suspect named Edson Pereira de Queiroz was arrested.

Authorities have arrested over 54 suspects so far, and most of them were connected, somehow, with the robbery.

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Was It That Much Money? 

Since we have expressed the sum in Brazilian real, it must have been a bit difficult for you to keep track of how much we are talking about. 

Therefore, we will start including the amount of money based on how much it was worth (in dollars) at the time.

According to the exchange rate, the theft involved about R$160 million, which was about $71.6 million in 2005. 

Unfortunately, most of the money hasn’t been recovered, and instead, only R$20 million are reportedly in the hands of the authorities and then the bank itself once more. 

With kidnapping being involved in the aftermath of the crime after even the police were involved in the case of Luis Fernando Ribeiro, it is almost impossible to locate the rest of the money. 

It is sad to know that not only most of it wasn’t recovered, but also some lives were taken, including other murders of the perpetrators that haven’t been officially reported to the public. Many are still unaccounted for, along with the robbers missing. 

Now, isn’t money from a bank supposed to be “easily” tracked? 

Banco Central, the Brazilian central bank, is charged with controlling the money supply. 

To determine whether the money should be recirculated or destroyed, the vault had to be examined.

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It was almost impossible to trace the bills because they were not numbered in sequential order, which means the robbers were aware of this and knew the cash wasn’t going to be easily found with the usual identification. 

The background of the men involved, and possibly a few women, is unknown, considering that most of them haven’t been identified all these years. 

4 Facts You Should Know About the Banco Central Burglary

  • The robbery was once recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as the greatest bank robbery worldwide. 
  • The investigation and pursuit of the perpetrators involved continue in progress. 
  • People believe that lots of millions circulating in Brazil nowadays are part of the money stolen from the incident. 
  • There are no current hints or evidence about the 18 robbers missing involved in the robbery.

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Written by Dame Cash

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