Brazilian police recover $4.3 million stolen last month in Central Bank heist |

Brazilian police recover $4.3 million stolen last month in Central Bank heist

SAO PAULO, Brazil – Brazilian police recovered about $4.3 million of the $70 million stolen last month in a heist from Brazil’s Central Bank, making five arrests Wednesday in one of the world’s biggest bank robberies.Authorities raided a middle-class home in the northeastern city of Fortaleza, where the bank heist occurred, and found the money hidden in a hole in the floor, federal police said in a statement.Police were still counting the money, but spokeswoman Patricia Ferreira said the initial estimate was that $4.3 million had been recovered.The thieves spent three months tunneling under a busy city avenue in Fortaleza, about 1,500 miles northeast of Sao Paulo, to break into the Central Bank vault and steal the equivalent of $70 million in Brazilian currency, the real.Authorities recovered more than $2 million in cash shortly after the heist inside three pickup trucks on a vehicle transporter truck several hundred miles from Fortaleza.While the amount taken from the bank surpassed the $65 million stolen in 1987 from the Knightbridge Safe Deposit Center in London, once recognized by experts as the planet’s biggest robbery, it was dwarfed by the theft of $900 million in U.S. bills plus as much as $100 million worth of euros from the Iraq Central Bank in 2003.Five suspects were taken into custody Wednesday. Three other suspects were arrested eight days ago.The heist took place sometime during the weekend of Aug. 6-8.After completing the tunneling, the thieves crawled through a 28-inch-high tunnel that stretched more than 260 feet from a house they rented near the bank. The tunnel had wooden panels and plastic sheeting lining the walls, as well as electric lighting.The thieves left behind shovels, pickaxes, saws, drills and other tools they used to dig the tunnel and cut through the vault’s 3.6-foot-thick, steel-reinforced concrete floor.Inside the vault, they broke into containers filled with used 50-real notes – equivalent to about $22 – which they apparently transported back through the tunnel by a pulley system attached to a large plastic barrel cut in half.Prosecutors have said the group tried to charter a small plane a couple of days before the robbery to use it in the escape and to transport the money out of the country. Some of the stolen cash was taken from Fortaleza to Sao Paulo hidden inside grain sacks in a commercial flight, they said.—Associated Press Writer Tales Azzoni contributed to this story from Sao Paulo.Vail, Colorado

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