QCOSTARICA – Taking advantage of camera blind spots and perfect timing, allegedly several long-time employees of the Banco Nacional (BN), perpetrated what is unquestionably the biggest bank heist in Costa Rican history.
Almost ¢3.3 billion colones, in cash, went missing from the State bank’s vault sometime earlier this year, with the month of August being bank officials’ best guess. But it wasn’t until the beginning of October when the missing cash was uncovered and not until weeks later, on October 24th, the bank filed an official complaint with the Judiciary.
So far, seven bank employees, some of them in charge of keeping the bank vault safe from looters, were initially suspended (with pay) and precautionary measures by the bank and under investigation by the Prosecutor’s Office (Fiscalia).
Three of them this week each filed a writ of habeas corpus with the Constitutional Court, saying the bank’s measures restrict them from free movement, a right under Costa Rica’s constitution.
On Thursday, the suspected were arrested and were ‘perp-walked’ into court to determine preventive measures, which included remand (preventive detention), and surrender of their passports, among others.
On Thursday, the bank made a series of public statements and released photographs of some of the accused inside the vault putting money into manila envelopes while others watched the security monitors.
According to the State bank officials, the alleged thief is said to have made purchases of lottery tickets in the hundreds of thousands, even millions, of colones daily with the cash taken from the vault. The television news interviewed several downtown San Jose lottery vendors and none reported or heard of any other vendor ever having sold that much to a single purchaser. Ever.
The large purchases of lottery tickets raised suspicion among bank security, as to how an employee, although with a ‘large’ salary, could afford such spending daily.
“There was neglect on the part of all of the other officials,” Randall Zúñiga, director of the Organismo de Investigacion Judicial (OIJ), whose police agency is tasked with the criminal investigation.