Crooks - posing as police at fake checkpoint - hit Brinks van in major heist

Police investigation, photo: CTK

These days the area around Slavkov near Brno is probably best-known for recreations of the famous Battle of Austerlitz where Napoleon was victorious in 1805. But on Wednesday it saw excitement of a different nature: numerous police - complete with helicopter circling overhead - searching for clues at the scene of the second largest heist in the country's history. In the area, early on Wednesday, crooks - posing as police - waved down a Brinks truck that thought it was stopping for a routine control check. Within seconds, its occupants were forced at gunpoint to give up their cargo: a lot of money, as you might guess.

Police investigation,  photo: CTK
Wednesday between 7:30 and 8 am, a bend in a winding, less-travelled road near Slavkov, Moravia, was the site of the second largest successful heist in the country's history. Around that time a special Brinks truck rounded a turn and according to reports, had to hit the brakes to avoid hitting what appeared to be a legitimate police road block, complete with a 'marked' police car nearby. The driver and two fellow guards must have assumed they were being flagged down for a routine check. But, the charade didn't last long.

Four or five masked men reportedly quickly surrounded the armoured van and - at gunpoint - forced its occupants to open the back, allowing the thieves to grab the money inside. Shortly after that, a second escape car appeared and members of the masked gang drove off, leaving the Brinks crew no doubt shaken but otherwise uninjured. Only then were the authorities called.

Police investigation,  photo: CTK
Details of particular interest in the case include just "why" the Brinks employees failed to follow procedure - that is, to sit tight while their dispatcher checked the police's authenticity. Instead, they opened the doors. Sheer surprise and intimidation must have been factors, described by police officer Radim Hofman in the media Wednesday: he said that members of the gang made clear that they would kill the Brinks employees if they showed resistance. But, that doesn't mean that police have ruled out the possibility of an inside job. Other questions include just how the crooks get a hold of apparently authentic police uniforms. And more. Throughout much of Wednesday the surroundings of the hold-up site were completely closed off, as police searched for the most minute clues. No one was allowed through, one of the dailies writes, not even a local cyclist trying to get to his property.

Not surprisingly, the Brink's Company has not revealed any official numbers or information other than to say that its client will - understandably - suffer no damages following the theft: the money that thieves made off with was insured. According to an unofficial source the thieves made off with more than 80 million crowns, roughly the equivalent of 3.6 million US dollars. No doubt, the gang will now do its best to elude justice, but if caught and brought to trial those who were involved can expect to receive long sentences: up to fifteen years in jail.