Sunday, September 25, 2011

Failure to Follow Procedure Proves Costly for Venezuelan Armored Car Company

Beginning next week, I'll be offering twice-weekly summaries of the criminal and terrorist threats prevailing in hundreds of cities worldwide. It is hoped that you'll find these summaries useful as you travel the world.

One country that I've spent a great deal of time in is Venezuela, which is also unfortunately one of the most dangerous countries in South America. More on that later.

In any event, on Wednesday (September 21) there was an armored vehicle robbery in Ciudad Guayana, which netted six enterprising criminals a whopping US$395,000. This is a good day's work even by US, Asian or European standards.

Let me first digress a bit and explain a bit about Ciudad Guayana. Most of you have probably never heard of it, but I've actually been there, albeit several years ago, while doing some security consulting in Caracas, which eventually led me to a trip to Ciudad Guayana.

First of all, Ciudad Guayana is no slouch of a town. It actually has over 1 million residents. Originally, the nearby towns of Puerto Ordaz and San Felix, both mining centers, gave birth to Ciudad Guayana in the early 1960s. The city is also home to the Guri Dam, the second largest hydroelectric power station in the world. The city is also significant because it is home to the Caroni and Orinoco Rivers (also called the Caronoco Zone), two of the most important rivers in Venezuela.

Forgive me. Let me get back to the armored car heist. One thing that is a common thread in Latin America is the lack of adherence to process (e.g., procedures). Largely because large sums of money are regularly moved in Ciudad Guayana, the guards operating the armored vehicle had a huge lapse in procedure by parking in front of a food stand where the driver exited the vehicle to purchase empanadas for breakfast.

COMMENT: What the guards were unaware of is that a group of men had been following the armored vehicle in their own vehicle and were looking for just that violation of procedure to enable them to steal the US$395,000 the truck carried. This occurred when the armored vehicle was opened at the food kiosk when the assailants began firing at the open vehicle killing one of the guards, enabling them to move the money to their vehicle.

Unfortunately, another violation of procedure was that normally, in the state of Bolivar, a police vehicle accompanied the money truck, but on this particular day, luck was on the side of the bad guys, as there was no police escort.

Not surprisingly, police are investigating the armored vehicle company, as they suspect complicity on the part of at least one employee who may have been working with the assailants. Police also suspect that the gunmen may have moved the money by power boat, given the convenient access of the Orinoco River.

Of course, eliminating one or two of the six assailants, turns out to be even more lucrative for the survivors. This we'll never know, unless, of course, the police apprehend the assailants, which is also very unlikely.

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