LIMA – Robbers staged a daring assault on a truck carrying 120 kilograms of gold, along with $1 million and 9 million soles ($2.7 million) in cash, on the runway at the airport in the Peruvian city of Juliaca, local media reported Sunday.
Officials with the Public Ministry and the National Police, as quoted by the La Republica and El Comercio dailies, confirmed that the robbers used tear gas to overpower the guards and make off with the gold and cash, although initial reports had been that the criminals fled without any booty.
Authorities were intending to ship the gold and money on a commercial flight to Lima, but after the assault on the armored cash transport truck some 400 police launched a search for the criminals throughout the Puno region bordering Bolivia where Juliaca is located.
According to press reports, police on Saturday captured six robbery suspects, one of them a Bolivian, in a house in the town of Canchi Grande, near Juliaca, and recovered part of the booty.
The National Police recovered 30 kilos of gold and 1 million soles ($300,000), the head of the National Criminal Investigation Directorate, Jose Lavalle, said Sunday.
In addition, a team of police traveled from Lima to Juliaca to participate in the investigation and, La Republica reported, the armored truck security guards are also being questioned to determine if they were in on the heist.
On Friday night, the group of robbers – amid a gunfight – gained access through an auxiliary door to the runway area of Inca Manco Capac Airport and deployed tear gas to subdue security guards and approach an airplane that was loaded with cash.
The robbers initially approached the baggage area and opened fire, the general secretary of the Christian Popular Party, Rafael Yamashiro, who witnessed the incident, told the state-run Andina news agency.
Airport security forces and the armored truck’s guards returned fire at the attackers, but the latter set fire to a vehicle and were able to escape with their haul of cash and gold.
Several flights that were scheduled to depart from the airport on Friday night were suspended for security reasons.
A few minutes after the assault, the National Police came across the vehicles in which the robbers fled, although they had been set on fire.