In what has been dubbed a "spectacular heist" reminiscent of any number of B-rated Hollywood action movies, an army of heavily armed robbers, estimated between 50 and 60, targeted the cash storage facility of a Prosegur SA security vault in Paraguay's Ciudad del Este, stealing as much as $40 million. During the three-hour long theft, the dozens of assailants who used grenades, explosives and military assault rifles, killed one police officer, injured another and left three civilians wounded. According to Fox News, the robbers blew open one of three vaults, they said. The remaining two were not accessed.
According to media reports, the assault was carried out with a wide array of weapons, including AK 47s, C4 explosives, infrared weapons, snipers and even anti-aircraft guns and a helicopter.
Police sources told Ultima Hora the robbers had between five and eight vehicles at their disposal, with which they closed the perimeter in a 600-yard radius almost an hour ahead of time.
After snatching the loot, the thieves then managed to get away without a glitch. The violent robbery started around midnight and ended after 3 a.m., neighbors said. It has left the city in a state of panic, especially because none of the robbers has been caught. Schools were closed Monday.
Numerous witnesses said they heard the heavily armed men speaking in Portuguese, leading to speculation that they could be members of the First Command of the Capital (PCC), one of the largest criminal groups in Brazil.
It appears that the robbers had had an eye on the Prosegur headquarters in Ciudad del Este for a long time: the company had entered the authorities’ radar in 2015 when they found a tunnel running under the building."They found an L-shaped tunnel that ran under Prosegur and connected to a house. Two years later, they managed to rob it," said Richard Vera, Paraná's homicide chief, as quoted by El Pais.
The brazen theft took place in Paraguay's Ciudad del Este - the country's second largest city - near the border with Brazil and Argentina; the city has gained notoriety for trade in illicit and counterfeit items, rampant crime, and the presence of international criminal groups.
According to Bloomberg, the gang set fire to numerous vehicles during the assault in the early hours of Monday morning, blocking roads around the facility. Paraguay’s interior ministry said it believed the robbery was carried out by a Brazilian criminal organization.
In a statement, Prosegur offered condolences for the death of the police officer and expressed support for the work of the law enforcement agencies in the city. It also noted its concern over the "organization, capacity and war-like equipment used by organized crime in this act."
Bloomberg adds that Argentina has strengthened security at its nearby border, is helping Paraguay trace the origin of the weapons and has offered its neighbor assistance, Security Minister Patricia Bullrich said.
If the thieves were inspired by any of the countless Need for Speed sequeles, any attempts to detain them - likely located on a different continent by now - will be moot.