A tunnel, a hole in the floor: Belgium ponders bank heist. Thieves in Belgium have used sewers to tunnel into a bank vault near Antwerp’s diamond trading district.(BBC)
When police reacted to a warning call at a bank in Antwerp’s famed diamond center, they found the vault door still secured. It was only after they forced their way inside that they realized the sheer audacity of the robbery that had taken place — some 30 empty deposit boxes, a hole in the floor, a tunnel to the sewage system.
The thieves appear to have had to squeeze through sewage pipes as narrow as 40cm wide, before boring another tunnel to reach the bank.
Police have not yet said how much was stolen during the raid.
Els Liekens of the water company, Aquafin, said the robbery had been very risky. “First of all, digging the tunnel towards the sewage system was dangerous for the robbers themselves because of a possible subsidence,” she said. “And inside the sewer, you have all kinds of danger, such as gas concentrations coming from the waste water.”
What’s clear is that the heist was as daring as it was dangerous. First, a tunnel had to be dug from a home several hundred meters away into the sewage system. Then, a move had to be made through the claustrophobic sewers, measuring less than a meter-wide toward the bank that could at any time get filled with water or noxious vapors.
Bank customers have been upset at a lack of information from the bank, with some saying the boxes contained their life savings.
“A lot of people are not only keeping money or jewels, but also family pieces,” one said.
A similar raid in the French city of Nice in 1976 saw a gang spend months tunnelling through sewers to access a branch of Société Générale. They plundered more than 200 safety boxes, making off with millions of dollars.