Gunmen strike truck at Guatemala airport, steal US$8 million (€6 million)

GUATEMALA CITY_Gunmen held up a truck in a restricted area of Guatemala City's international airport early Thursday and made off with US$8 million (€6 million) that was to be shipped to the U.S. Federal Reserve authorities said.

Interior Minister Carlos Vielman told The Associated Press the vehicle was carrying US$22 million (€17 million) as well as the driver, a bank cashier and an unarmed guard when the heavily armed bandits stopped it. No arrests had been made and there were no injuries.

The money came from six private banks and was being sent to the Federal Reserve for safekeeping, said Hector Arevalo, the director of the company transporting the cash. He added that this kind of cash transfer was routine.

Vielman initially told reporters the money was from the Guatemalan Central Bank.

Authorities believe the robbery was an inside job, Vielman said, noting that the thieves drove into the restricted area in a government-authorized car.

"How did they know when the money would arrive and that it would be transported in an airport vehicle that was not armored from the terminal?" Vielman said. "Supposedly no one with guns should be able to enter this area that was 100 percent restricted, but now we know that it is vulnerable."

Communications Minister Eduardo Castillo called the heist "an isolated incident" and said it did not indicate a more widespread security problem in the country.

Guatemala's police director, Erwin Sperissen, said authorities planned to beef up airport security.

<<Associated Press WorldStream -- 09/08/06>>