It sounds like a bank robbery straight out of Hollywood. But the spectacular break-in discovered on Monday morning happened in the Steglitz district of Berlin.
Thieves managed to break through a concrete wall in a parking garage and dig a 30-meter (100-foot) tunnel into a nearby branch of Berliner Volksbank. Once inside, they opened more than 100 safe-deposit boxes. The total value of what they stole remains unclear.
The thieves also set a fire, apparently to cover their tracks. Police currently have no hard leads in the case. Nobody was injured in the burglary.
According to a police spokeswoman, the tunnel was "very professional" and likely took several days to dig. It went undiscovered because it was located in an area of the parking garage that was separated by a rolling shutter. The thieves apparently disposed of all of the dirt excavated from the tunnel elsewhere. According to a story in the Berlin daily Berliner Zeitung, they had to bore their way through two heavy walls of reinforced concrete to get into the bank.
"It will take some time to determine the value of what was stolen," the police spokeswoman said.
Police cordoned off the bank branch, located on the ground floor of a medical center, so that officers could search for clues. The parking garage was also closed.
Fire fighters discovered the break-in on Monday morning after a resident reported a fire in the parking garage at 6:15 a.m., the police spokeswoman said. According to preliminary investigation, the fire appears to have been set intentionally, she said. Police remain uncertain of when exactly the crime took place, and investigators are still questioning nearby residents and reviewing surveillance footage for more clues.
The robbery is reminiscent of a similarly spectacular job in 1995, when six men held up a Commerzbank branch in Berlin's Zehlendorf district, taking 16 hostages before escaping through a tunnel they had made. They were later caught and convicted.
cgh/kla -- with wire reports
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