Airport security chief sacked after $7.6 million robbery

Airport security chief sacked after $7.6 million robbery

Wednesday, August 13, 2014 8:44 pm


Defence minister Burgos: How did it happen?

Defence minister Burgos: How did it happen?

SANTIAGO(AFP) – Chile ordered a probe and fired Santiago airport’s security chief on Wednesday in the wake of a movie-like $7.6 million heist — the largest in the South American nation’s history.

The robbery took place Tuesday when eight masked gunmen held up an armored truck belonging to the US security firm Brink’s and made off with the money within minutes.

No shots were fired during an incident that unfolded like a film script.

Dressed as ground personnel, the suspects broke the padlock of a fence leading to the airport runway and intercepted the truck delivering the funds to a flight bound for the country’s north to supply banks and mining companies.

The truck’s guards had left their weapons at airport security.

Some of the gunmen pointed rifles at the driver while others grabbed 24 bags containing wads of cash, the La Tercera newspaper reported, citing sources close to the investigation.

The bandits then fled in two vans, one of which they abandoned and set ablaze about three kilometers from the airport. The vehicle, it turned out, had been stolen July 21.

“This, frankly, is an embarrassment,” Deputy Interior Minister Mahmud Aleuy told local media.

“If an armed group like this manages to enter and commit such a crime, obviously Chile’s main airport is not secure.”

Following an order from the Defense Ministry, the DGAC civil aviation authority launched an investigation to determine if proper security measures were in place at the time of the robbery.

Defense Minister Jorge Burgos, meanwhile, announced that the head of security at the airport, Arturo Merino Benitez, had been relieved of his duties.

Speaking at a news conference, Burgos called the heist “regrettable and serious” and pledged that the airport’s security measures would be “revised, modified and altered.”

The minister confirmed that the truck’s guards were unarmed at the time of the assault, saying international standards prevent them from carrying weapons within the air terminal.

So far, authorities have found no trace of the assailants.

Ed Cunningham, director of corporate communications at Brink’s, told AFP that the company — based in the US state of Virginia — was cooperating with the Chilean investigation.

It was the second major Chilean heist to hit Brink’s in recent years.

The company was also the target of what was previously the largest robbery in the country’s history, the 2006 theft of 922 million pesos at the same airport terminal.

The most recent heist raised red flags for security experts such as Mauricio Olavarria of the University of Santiago.

“The question is what would have happened if this had not been a robbery but a kidnapping or terrorist act?” Olavarria asked in an interview with AFP.

“What you see is that the protocols in place are not able to prevent such events.”

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