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Last Updated: Thursday, 11 August 2005, 15:10 GMT 16:10 UK
Brazil bank robbery suspects held
Tunnel used by Brazil bank robbers
Police say the robbers took three months to tunnel into the vault
Brazilian police have detained two people suspected of involvement in the country's biggest bank robbery.

They were detained in an operation in the south-eastern state of Minas Gerais, in which police recovered about $500,000 of the $68m stolen.

The money was found in a vehicle inside a car transporter which was stopped by police, officials said.

Thieves robbed the bank on Saturday in the north-eastern city of Fortaleza after tunnelling into the vault.

The bank says the money was not insured and so unless the thieves are caught, there will be no way of recovering it.

Fake business

Brazilian police are still trying to piece together who was responsible for the bank robbery.

They now believe a gang of between 10 and 20 people mounted the three-month operation to tunnel under the bank vault and steal three-and-a-half tons of used banknotes.

Gang members are believed to have rented a house and set up a fake gardening business to hide their activities.

The central bank is carrying out its own investigation to see if there was inside help.

Officials say the money was insured only for transportation, not while in the vault.

They suspect the theft was the work of either the First Command or the Red Command, the two largest organised criminal gangs in Brazil.

Both have become major drugs cartels, using small armies to control slum districts of Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.



SEE ALSO:
'Record' bank robbery in Brazil
08 Aug 05 |  Americas
Country profile: Brazil
28 May 05 |  Country profiles
Timeline: Brazil
14 Jul 05 |  Country profiles



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