More than a day after the spectacular burglary of a BNP Paribas Fortis Antwerp bank branch, customers are still in the dark as to whether their safe deposit box was robbed. On Sunday afternoon it was discovered that the vault room of the BNP Paribas Fortis office on the Antwerp Belgiëlei had been looted, when the bank’s security firm sounded the alarm.
From their base in a building on the Nerviërsstraat, 400 metres away and opposite the bank, the burglars dug a tunnel four metres long to connect with a sewage pipe running under the road. Through this sewer network, in a scenario fit for a heist film, they made their way to the bank branch by digging another tunnel to reach the vault room. The burglars entered through a hole in the floor.
The investigation into the burglary is still in full swing, but according to both the VRT and Het Laatste Nieuws, twenty to thirty safes were broken into. It is not yet known how big the haul was. Nor is anything known yet about the possible perpetrators, who exited without a trace.
The hundreds of customers who rented a safe at the BNP Paribas Fortis branch are also in the dark for the time being. During the day, dozens of people who rent safes in the branch of safes gathered at the office.
For the time being the bank cannot give them any additional information. Because the burglary is still under investigation, the vault room has been locked and customers will not have access to it. In such situations, the bank is also obliged to have its customers declare on honour the contents of the safe they rented. This is done in the presence of a bailiff. Only when the police give the green light will customers be given access to their safes again.
Els Liekens, of the engineering company Aquafin, told Het Laatste Nieuws the theft was extremely risky. “When it starts to rain, rainwater enters the sewers and can fill up very quickly, which can lead to drowning if you are there,” she said.
The robbed bank is close to Antwerp’s famous diamond quarter, scene of the so-called ‘heist of the century’ in February 2003, when over $100m in jewels was stolen from a vault.