A criminal gang dug a 600-meter (2000-foot) tunnel in an attempt to rob 1 billion reais (US$ 318 million) from a bank. They were thwarted by police shortly before completing the heist.
A team of 16 prospective bank robbers had dug the tunnel, running from a nearby rental house to a São Paulo branch of federal government-owned Banco do Brasil.
The São Paulo state Public Safety Department said the gang had been under surveillance for three months before the tunnel was discovered. The gang allegedly spent about US$ 1.27 million building the tunnel, with the cost split among its participants.
Police allege the leader of the gang was Alceu Ceu Gomes Nogueira, a 35-year-old man implicated in an attempted robbery of a security van in Paraguay. The court ruled the group be held in pre-trial detention.
The group dug the tunnel by hand, loading the soil into sacks and carrying it through a fork in the tunnel to an underground storm water drain.
To enter the tunnel, gang members descended a two meter ladder from one of the rooms in the rented house. The tunnel was about 1.5 meters high and was reinforced with iron beams and wood, and was even wired with lights.
The walls were lined with plastic garbage bags to reduce the dust. The house was reportedly filled with food, water, special clothing and digging tools.
Police were probing whether the gang had the assistance of a engineer when building the tunnel.
The tunnel renewed memories of a tunnel robbery 12 years ago when thieves made off with about US$ 70 million.
On that tunnel, diggers worked in shifts from 8 p.m. until 4 a.m., taking a break on weekends. Three gang members involved in that attempt were involved in two separate prison escapes using tunnels equipped with ventilation and lighting.
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