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Third suspect in Antwerp bank robbery arrested

© Belga
© Belga

Two new suspects in the case of the spectacular raid on the safe-deposit room of a bank in Antwerp a week ago have been arrested, bringing the number to three. The first suspect arrested on Tuesday, meanwhile, has been freed. The first suspect has been named as Koba M., a 27-year-old truck driver born in the former Soviet republic of Georgia, now holding Belgian nationality. He was under police surveillance in another case of stolen washing machines, and during one telephone conversation spoke of a special angle-grinder he had to go to the Netherlands to buy. Just such a tool was found in one of the tunnels dug by the robbers of the BNP Paribas Fortis bank in Antwerp.

Kobe M. is not suspected of taking part in the robbery himself, but he is thought to have delivered the tools needed for the job. The robbers broke into the safe-deposit room using one tunnel, and left via another leading to a manhole in the street (photo).

The two other suspects now under arrest at 28-year-old Giorgi K., and 45-year-old Kachaber M., both men also Georgians. K is thought to have been present in the apartment rented by the gang nearby, from which they dug their first tunnel. He is also suspected of buying medical oxygen cylinders which allowed the robbers to pass through the sewers safely. No information is yet available regarding the third suspect.

Meanwhile a former employee of the bank branch told VTM News that security in the bank often left a lot to be desired. On one occasion in 2012, she said, a man entered the safe-deposit room with a crowbar and proceeded to break open several safe-deposit boxes. Staff never accompanied clients to the room, she alleged, contrary to established practice. “And there were no cameras, so we never knew what was going on.”

The victims of the robbery, clients who rented safe-deposit boxes at the branch, remain in the dark, after being invited by the bank to make a declaration of the contents of their boxes. They were then supposed to be informed whether or not their box had been one of the 20-30 broken open. But so far, no further information from police or the bank has been forthcoming.

Alan Hope
The Brussels Times

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