Mission possible. Three thieves made off with 51 million Sk after evading Ľudová Banka's security and guards.
On July 16 at 8:11 a.m., three men approached the door leading to the bank's underground cash counter used for depositing and withdrawing large sums. After donning ski-masks, two of the assailants forced three bank accountants to the floor, tied them up and snuck off with four leather suitcases stuffed with 20 million Slovak crowns (Sk) and the rest in foreign currencies. It was the second largest heist in Slovakia's history.
The fact that the bank is situated on Bratislava's SNP square, one of the city's busiest intersections, raised eyebrows how the raid could have occurred so smoothly. "There was only one camera and no alarm system in the discreet cash register," said an investigator on the case who requested anonymity.
Two weeks after the robbery, the president of the Bratislava Police Department, Colonel Peter Nemec, said at a press conference, "It is the bank's fault. Now the police has to spend a great deal of money and people to look for the three men. The bank did not have enough security [to defend] itself."
The access to the underground vault was apparently easy. According to sources familiar with that section of the bank, ringing a buzzer is enough to get in, and depositors are not required to give their account number in such instances. Indeed, after the assailants rang the buzzer, one of them said that they were there to make a deposit. Two of them were buzzed in, leaving the third man upstairs.
Downstairs, the two men pulled on ski masks and whipped out their guns, forcing a woman at the desk to give them keys to the treasury. While one of the thieves tied up two women, the other emptied the safe almost completely. In five minutes the transaction was terminated, and the robbers walked out undetected by an elderly security guard, who did not notice that they left with four suitcases instead of the two they walked in with.
The police cordoned off some city streets immediately after the bureau was notified, and officers performed random car checks in the city. On July 17, Bratislava police called on the international police bureau Interpol to help in find the assailants.
The director of Ľudová Banka, Jozef Kollár, refused to comment for The Slovak Spectator, but his secretary denied the allegations of a poor security system. "The information was already released, the management issued a statement," the secretary said. "The bank's security system is sufficient."
In the statement, Kollár explained why the bank's security guards were not armed. "At times, there are 60 to 150 people at the bank, and I am afraid that if some shooting took place, more people would get hurt, or could be killed than be helped."
Another bank located on SNP square, Slovenská Sporiteľňa, has armed guards. "Our security is armed," said Ivan Kiňo, director of the bank's security. "We want to protect our customers and employees."
Ľudová Banka started operations in Slovakia in 1991 as a daughter company of the Austrian Volksbank.
In 1995, it ranked tenth among Slovak banks according to its balance sheet and the amount of loans provided, as well as sixth in total deposits.
However, Kollár said that the bank is insured by foreign insurance companies, and that depositors should not lose any money, which was confirmed by Volksbank headquarters in Vienna.
Was robbed of by three men who fooled the bank's entire security staff and sneaked through its poor safeguard system to get away with the second largest loot taken from a bank in Slovakia's history.
14. Aug 1997 at 0:00 | Andrea Lörinczová