Is it a thriller movie? Is it a crime novel? No. It’s a REAL LIFE heist!

20 freight containers robbed

I grew up watching movies where the first half showed how thieves sneakily break into a premises, looted valuables with the stealth of a cat and made their way out without leaving a mark; the second half obviously depicted a brave group of law enforcers engaging them in a high speed chase before finally catching and arresting them. But in the latest robbery at the Pacific Coast seaport of Manzanillo, the part after the interval never happened.

Coming to the point, June 5th witnessed the ‘robbery of the century’ – a real life heist – unfold on a private freight yard near a port in Manzanillo, Mexico. The thieves, a group of nearly a dozen armed men, broke into the premises of a freight dispatch company, gagged the guards, hooked up 20 containers full of partly refined gold & silver ore, television sets and others, to trucks and drove away – all while taking their own sweet time and without any apparent harm to the employees present. No sign of the containers, or their contents, has been seen since.

According to the State Security spokesperson Gustavo Adrian Joya, “This is unprecedented. We had seen sporadic thefts of containers before, but not in such a quantity,” he said, adding that the heist took 8 to 10 hours. “They were very selective in the type of goods they stole: precious metals and other things, like air conditioning units.” He also said that the robbers opened several containers, selected only those that they were interested in, and left the rest intact. The theft required the use of cranes, forklifts and trucks to remove the items. “They had the logistics,” added the spokesman.

Freight theft is not a new problem in Mexico. There have been many instances in the past and Colima state has become a notoriously infamous for it. However, as per the locals authorities, it has mostly been thieves hijacking one truck at a time and not driving off with 20 freight containers.

Horacio Duarte, the head of Mexico’s customs service, said that the theft was the result of ‘a very serious organized crime operation.’ The region, known as the state of Colima, is dominated by the Jalisco Cartel, a semi-militarized group of criminals that is led by Nemesio Oseguera Cervantes, a drug trafficker who is known as the most-wanted man in Mexico, as well as one of the most-wanted in the US.

According to experts, a freight yard is a highly vulnerable place for storing goods, especially those which are not located in the areas secured by the Port Authorities or the Navy. The cargo is most vulnerable at any time it is parked at a place. In this particular incident, Duarte also said the area where the burglary occurred was not under the jurisdiction of the Navy, which is in charge of port surveillance.

The authorities have not denied the media’s reports of the robbery, but they have emphasised that it was not committed within the port facilities. “Apparently there was a robbery in a container yard, but such facilities are not part of the port area proper,” a spokesperson for the Navy Secretary’s Office said. “Whatever happened, happened outside in a private freight dispatch yard where private parties store their goods until these enter the port area for shipment,” he added.

As reported by the local news agencies, the incident took place on Sunday, 5th June but wasn’t reported until the next day. It is also surprising that there has been no sighting of the containers or their contents since the robbery took place. While things like television sets or air conditioners can be sold quickly in the black market, it is not that easy to do away with the gold & silver ore. Any refiner would question the source of big quantities of ore.

José Medina Mora, President of the Mexican Employers Federation, said that the theft is a sign that safety concerns in the nation are growing. El Pais reported that the port is a main thoroughfare for the cartel, especially for unloading synthetic drugs that are made in Mexico and sold in the US.

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