DIE WELT (Germany)

Worldcrunch

BERLIN – The German Police has launched a special investigation codenamed “Tunnel” in the search for the perpetrators of a spectacular break-in at a Berlin bank.

According to Die Welt, the thieves dug 100-foot long tunnel from a neighboring underground garage into the safety deposit box vault of the Volksbank in Berlin’s Steglitz district.

Police spokesman Thomas Neuendorf said, "The tunnel was very professional. These people were not beginners." According to him, the tunnel must have taken weeks or months to be built.

The thieves were able to open around 300 safety deposit boxes, with some reports saying they had gotten away with us much as 10 million euros.

German crime scene technicians are sifting through the rubble in the vault to which the criminals apparently set fire as they fled the scene.

Items from the safety deposit boxes that did not interest the thieves were strewn everywhere. "We even found a carbonized stuffed animal," Neuendorf said. From the evidence, police are operating under the assumption that the robbers were disturbed as they worked their way through the vault, because only an estimated 300 of 900 safety deposit boxes had been broken into.

Police suspect that a man who rented parking space in the underground parking garage in February 2012 using false papers may be involved in the tunnel heist. It is not known how many people were involved in the spectacular heist. Police are examining the possibility that the organizers of the coup used hired help to build the tunnel and carry out the heist. Witnesses reported the presence of construction workers around the garage, and it is possible that the tunnel diggers disguised themselves as such. The garage did not have video surveillance cameras.

The rented parking space had room for three cars and was separated from the rest of the garage by a roll-down door. This space is big enough to store the earth dug up in the tunnel-building, which could then be gradually transported out of the garage.

The Berlin Police has released photos of the tunnel and of a suspect: