Saturday, January 07, 2012

Tanzanian Police Foil $30m 'Great Plane Robbery' Gold Heist

Garry White
Jan. 6 (Telegraph) -- Tanzanian police have foiled a $30.6m (£19.8m) bullion robbery, which would have rivalled the £25m Brinks Mat gold heist from Heathrow in 1983 if it had succeeded. In the latest security incident to hit the country's miners, five masked men raided an airstrip owned by South African group AngloGold Ashanti.

The heavily-armed men emerged from a nearby forest and attempted to steal 587 kilogrammes of gold bars from an aeroplane at the group's Geita mine, Reuters reported.

The attack was thwarted by police from Mwanza, located on the shores of Lake Victoria.

"Incidents such as these are usually carried out by a syndicate and also involve somebody from the inside who told the robbers that a plane usually flies from the airstrip every Thursday with gold bars," Deusdedit Nsimeki, Mwanza's regional crimes officer, said.

"The robbers, who wore military-style clothing, had sub-machine guns and hand grenades. They were trying to steal a cargo of gold bars weighing some 586.6 kilos, which is worth billions of shillings," Mr Nsimeki added.

Raids on gold mines are not uncommon in Tanzania. In May last year seven "criminal intruders" were killed at one of African Barrick Gold's mines in the north of the country. It was estimated that 1,500 people took part in this raid, attacking the local police with machetes, rocks and hammers.

As a result, FTSE 100-listed African Barrick said in October that it planned to build a 14 kilometre long wall around its North Mara mine to prevent any future incursions.

In the latest attempted gold theft, one of the robbers was killed and police recovered two sub-machine guns and a pistol. Local police said that one of AngloGold's expatriate workers suffered minor bullets wounds and was evacuated to Nairobi, the Kenyan capital, for treatment.

The Geita mine is the largest producing mine in Tanzania. The country's economy is mostly based on agriculture, but it has vast quantities of unexploited natural resources

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