Bieber millions heist ‘an inside job’

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Independent Newspapers

Part of a building plan that shows where the stadium's strong room is. Photo: Matthews Baloyi

Johannesburg - Within 48 hours the police should arrest the gang of men who brazenly pulled off a movie-style heist at FNB Stadium.

This is according to Stadium Management South Africa chief executive Jacques Grobbelaar, who suspects it was an inside job.

Piecing together the clues at the scene of the crime - where all that remained was the rope the robbers used to drop into the stadium’s strongroom and some small change they left behind - it appeared that the thieves knew where the money was kept.

Several days before, the gang began their audacious plan by chiselling through the double-thick wall of the strongroom, which is hidden in the bowels of the stadium, accessed only through the basement parking.

Even though as many as 900 security guards milled around the stadium, the sound of the tools chipping away at the wall would have been muffled by the sounds of the concert preparations outside.

The 94 000-capacity stadium was on lockdown on Tuesday as police, forensic experts and security company officials searched for clues.

US rock band Bon Jovi played to a packed audience on Saturday night. A day later more people flocked to the venue to see Canadian singer Justin Bieber.

Just a few hours after Bieber stepped off the stage and his fans streamed out of the stadium, the last money drop into the strongroom was made at about 2am.

At some stage after that it is believed the gang entered a women’s toilet next to the strongroom.

They climbed into the ceiling and began chiselling through a separating wall.

The thieves even packed the bricks neatly against the wall, said Grobbelaar.

Once through the wall, they made a small hole in the ceiling on the other side and slipped through - negotiating a 3.5m drop before they could reach their loot.

The thieves are believed to have roped down head first. The rope has now been taken away by the police to be examined as evidence.

Shoeprints, said Grobbelaar, could still be seen on the wall.

Once in the strongroom, the thieves broke open cash boxes and stuffed large-denomination notes into rucksacks. Smaller notes and change lay scattered in the room.

To get into the strongroom, the thieves would have had to walk through the basement parking of the stadium, use a master key to open a locked gate, swipe accreditation to enter an enclosed area, and know the layout of the safe. It is also possible that they could have seen the architectural blueprint of the facility.

The heist was revealed when concert organisers arrived for work on Monday morning, expecting to count the weekend’s millions.

The police were immediately called. Crime intelligence officials and detectives scoured the stadium for clues, and forensic experts searched for evidence and dusted for fingerprints.Grobbelaar said: “I myself wasn’t even aware of this specific room being used. The section had been handed over to our client (Big Concerts), and that area is hidden in one of the cavities of the stadium. Very few people know about the existence of the strongroom.

“It must be somebody who knows the premises, who knows the layout of the building.

“It looked like they had been working on this area for a considerable amount of time.”

Officials are not saying at this stage how much money was taken, but it is understood that all the cash takings from the concession stands at the Bieber and Bon Jovi concerts were being held in the strongroom.

“There was a lot of cash in that room,” said a source with knowledge of the concert industry.

Big Concerts managing director Justin van Wyk was on the scene on Monday assisting staff and police, but declined to comment.

Grobbelaar said it would have been easy for the thieves to exit the stadium after their heist, as there were between 500 and 1 500 workers on site at the time.

He said the police were following several leads.

There were also plans to offer a reward.

The Star


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