A Brazilian gang has stolen more than R$100 million in gold from an airport after impersonating federal police.

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In a heist, straight from a movie plot, a Brazilian gang drove onto the tarmac of a São Paulo airport well disguised as Federal Police and left with 123 million Brazilian Reals (US$ 32 Million) in gold.

The thieves managed to gain access to Cumbica airport Thursday, in two trucks identical to those driven by the Federal Police; featuring exact copies of the lights, stencils, and logos of the law enforcement agency.

The target was an armored truck carrying 720 kg of gold destined for Canada and Switzerland.

According to authorities, the gang took a logistic supervisor’s family hostage Wednesday night compelling him to give them information about when and where the gold would be delivered.

The following day the thieves drove to the airport in the phony vehicles which allowed them to bypass initial security checkpoints. According to witnesses, once on the tarmac five hooded men armed with pistols and rifles forced the security team to surrender, placed the gold in the trucks and took a man hostage before leaving.

Authorities said that the criminals ditched the vehicles about 20 km from the airport also releasing the hostage and the logistic supervisor’s family.

High risk, high reward thefts have become ever more frequent in Brazil recently. For many criminal gangs targeting goods and valuables in transport has become a profitable alternative to the narcotics trade.

In March of last year, a similar heist to Thursday’s took place when a Lufthansa jet carrying about 20 million Reals (US$ 5 million) was robbed on the runway. The thieves gained access to the area in vehicles made to look like security trucks.

One of the vehicles ditched by the criminals following the heist (Photo: PRF)

One of the vehicles ditched by the criminals following the heist (Photo: PRF)

In October of the year before, criminals dug a 600-meter tunnel in Sao Paulo, complete with lighting and its own ventilation system. The target was a bank vault holding nearly a billion Reals (US$ 250 million.) Authorities managed to foil the crime at the last moment. If successful it would have been the biggest bank heist ever.

Insurance companies and those involved in the transport of valuable goods have started to invest heavily in private security to prevent would-be thieves and cargo snatchers.

Although high profile cases like Thursday’s gold heist often gain international headlines, ongoing violent robberies of goods in transport has become a significant issue for Brazilian companies. The resulting added security and insurance costs are often passed onto consumers resulting in more expensive products.