Headline — 15 September 2018 — by Albert J. Ciego
Kortco Belize Ltd. jacked over $800,000

4 thieves cut through 3 steel doors to reach the money while the 2 security guards were patrolling the rest of the free zone compound

BENQUE VIEJO DEL CARMEN, Cayo District, Thurs. Sept. 13, 2018-  At press time tonight, word to Amandala is that one person has been detained for questioning in the case of the over $800,000 robbery of a business in the Western Border Free Zone in Benque Viejo Del Carmen.

Sometime between 1:00 and 2:30 on the early morning of Sunday, September 10, four masked thieves breached the chain link fence on the western side of the compound of the Western Border Free Zone in Benque and made their way to the Kortco Belize Company Ltd. building.

The thieves used a portable oxy acetylene torch kit to first cut their way through the main door at the north end of the building.

When the thieves got inside the building, they used their torch kit to cut through two steel doors, the second of which opened to a room which held an iron safe that reportedly contained a whopping sum of money, over BZ$800,000!

 The thieves then used their torch to cut the safe open, and get at the cash. They then vacated the building with their stolen cash and their extremely handy piece of equipment.

Footage of the four bandits was captured on security cameras in the area, but police have had great difficulty determining their identities because their faces were covered with masks and they wore long- sleeved shirts and gloves. Police believe that the thieves were well-versed with the layout of the business. There is no estimate available as to the amount of time it took for the robbers to cut the three steel doors.

The two security guards on the compound at the time of the robbery, told police that they found the damage to the building at about 4:30 Sunday morning. They said that at the time the thieves breached the building, they were patrolling the compound, and were conducting static patrol at the gas station at the entrance to the compound, about 200 yards away from the Kortco building.

During the weekly police press brief held this afternoon at the Queen Street Police Station, ACP Joseph Myvette, Head of National Crimes Investigation, that said police were called to the Western Free Zone in Benque Viejo, to the Kortco company at about 4:30 Sunday morning, September 10, where on arrival they saw that the metal door at the entrance of the building had been cut off, as well as 2 other doors within the building and the door of a metal safe.

ACP Joseph Myvette said the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) is now a part of the investigation because of the large amount of foreign currency involved. He said that foreign currency is regulated by the government, and the FIU might be looking at the case from the angle of money laundering.

Myvette said that they launched an investigation into the heist and a worker of the company and several men were detained for questioning, but they were all released from custody today because there is insufficient evidence to charge them.

Information to us is that the Kortco Belize Company imports a container of cigarettes from China monthly, to the Western Free-Zone, and exports the cigarettes to Guatemala. The company is paid in US dollars for the products it exports to the Guatemalan market.

The manager of the company, Maria Salazar, told police that the money stolen, US$406,505, was the proceeds for a month’s sale of cigarettes. The owner of the company is a Bolivian national.

Al Sattler, the manager of the Western Free Zone, said in an interview on KREM that the free zone is a safe environment, but he did not expect that the company would have so much money in their office.

He said that someone must have said something to somebody, because the thieves seemed to know what they were looking for, and where to find it.

He said there are many other businesses in the free zone, but these thieves only targeted Kortco. He said that they would not have brought a blowtorch to cut 3 steel doors if they were not sure that they would find a large sum of money. He suspects that there was an inside connection.

Sattler said that they carry out daily security checks on the perimeter fence, and would repair areas of breach where people from inside would damage the fence to smuggle things to the outside.

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Deshawn Swasey

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