It took less than three minutes for eight armed men to make off with $30 million worth of gold bars from Sao Paulo's international airport -- possibly the second-largest heist in Brazil's history.
Criminals disguised as federal police officers drove to the Guarulhos airport on Thursday afternoon in an SUV and flatbed truck, both fashioned to look official, according to the airport's press office. Security camera footage shows them wearing balaclavas and giving orders to cargo terminal employees, one of whom used a forklift to load the precious cargo onto the truck's bed.
The gold was bound for Zurich and New York, the airport's press office said in an email, without disclosing its provenance. Sao Paulo's civil police, which is in charge of the investigation, said the men took 720 kilograms (1,587 pounds) in bars valued at 110 million reais ($30 million).
The crime was perpetrated by "a well-organized gang," police chief João Carlos Miguel Hueb told reporters on Friday. "This certainly wasn't their first robbery."
Brazil has been the site of a series of audacious heists. In the largest robbery in the country's history in 2005, thieves tunneled into the central bank's regional unit in Fortaleza to take the equivalent of $67 million in local currency. A similar plot in 2017 was foiled just before tunnelers reached Banco do Brasil's vault. Criminals routinely steal or blow up ATMs, hijack cargo trucks and armored vehicles, and once made off with millions of dollars worth of merchandise from a Samsung factory.
The night before this week's heist, criminals kidnapped relatives of an employee at Brink's Co., the security and transportation company in charge of the gold cargo. He was forced to provide detailed information that helped in the attack, police said.
Brink's didn't immediately return Bloomberg's request for comment.
The gold thieves ditched the fake police cars and swapped them twice for getaway vehicles. Police are now interviewing airport workers as part of the investigation.
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