Thieves of record half billion crowns on the run

Photo: CTK

A record theft of 560 million crowns (the equivalent of around 31 million US dollars) took place in Prague on Saturday, the highest sum of money ever stolen in the Czech Republic. The police have launched a hunt for a security agency employee suspected of stealing the cash form his company’s safe. A Czech betting agency has offered odds on whether or not the culprit will be caught.

Photo: CTK
The police surrounded an apartment complex on the outskirts of Prague on Tuesday afternoon in search of 33-year old Frantisek Prochazka, the man who is believed to have stolen 564 million crowns, or more than 31 million US dollars, from a security agency he worked for. The theft took place in the capital on Saturday morning but the police was not notified until the next day. Police spokeswoman Iva Knolova.

“Today, the police received a tip shortly before 12 AM that a person wanted in the Czech Republic was seen on the premises. The wanted person is Mr Frantisek Prochazka who is suspected of the theft of more than half a billion crowns. It is a large complex with three parts nine floors each, so it is taking us longer than we expected.”

But after six hours the police came out of the complex with neither the man nor the money, and the hunt continues. The plan of the record theft was daring, yet simple: Mr Prochazka walked in on Saturday for a regular day’s shift at his company, G4S Cash Services; a local branch of the Dutch-based Group 4 Securitas company specializing in handling cash. At one point during the morning, Mr Prochazka entered the company safe, filled four metal cases with bills – weighing about four and a half tons – and loaded them on a van that drove away with the loot. He then stayed to finish his day’s work and was last seen driving off in his car, the police said on Monday.

The suspect had been working for the security company for just four months, and the police say it is hard to believe that someone with such a brief record was granted access to such astronomical amounts of cash at one of the world’s largest security agencies. Moreover, G4S is now considering closing down its Czech branch because the firm might not be entitled to indemnity.

Frantisek Prochazka,  photo: CTK
The Saturday theft broke the previous all-time record for theft in the Czech Republic, until then held by a 2002 robbery. In that case, three masked men robbed an armoured van, getting away with 153 million crowns. The robbers were never found and the police shelved the case earlier this year.

If caught Mr Prochazka and any of his accomplices are facing 12 years in prison. Meanwhile, G4S has offered 2 million euros as a reward for their capture. A Czech betting agency trusts the police on this one; despite the unsuccessful raid on Tuesday, they offer odds of 1.4 to 1 that he will be caught.