In Brazil, thieves tunnel their way to $6m

Associated Press / December 8, 2009

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SÃO PAULO - Thieves who spent months tunneling from a rented house to an armored car company made off with nearly $6 million over the weekend as season-ending soccer matches virtually paralyzed the nation, Brazilian authorities said yesterday.

The theft was discovered Sunday night - after the games ended. Officers followed the tunnel from the company’s safe some 110 yards underground to a house, São Paulo police said in a statement.

Police said the house, abandoned when they arrived, had been occupied for about four months. Its former occupants are considered suspects, but there were no immediate arrests.

Officials with the armored car company told officers $5.9 million was missing, according to the statement.

Globo TV’s G1 website reported that electricity was cut off to the company’s office and some security cameras were not on when the theft happened, but authorities did not immediately confirm that.

The theft occurred on the last weekend of the soccer season, when the championship matches had people nationwide glued to their televisions.

A security guard at the building heard a loud noise at about 5 p.m. Sunday, but figured it was from fireworks that sports fans had been setting off throughout the afternoon, the newspaper O Estado de S. Paulo reported.

The newspaper said thieves left behind sacks of coins in the tunnel, and police found bags of dirt in the house. Firefighters who inspected the tunnel yesterday said it was about a yard high and a yard wide and contained maps and tools, G1 reported.