FNB heists: more questions than answers

Victims of the recent safety deposit box heists from First National Bank (FNB) branches in Randburg and Parktown remain dissatisfied with the bank’s response – or the absence of a response to their demands for information and proper compensation.

They have sought Noseweek’s support in informing a wider public about their shocking discoveries and their questions that remain unanswered.

•    The victims were only contacted about the robbery three to four days (on 21 December) after the incident on 18 December 2016.

•    Two victims only found out because they attempted to deposit more valuables.

•    Many of the victims had been unaware their boxes were moved from the Fourways branch to the Randburg branch where they were stolen.

•    They discovered by “informal means” that 339 boxes were taken from the bank.

•    The thieves gained entry to the Randburg bank by grinding (or by jackhammer, according to FNB CEO Lee-Anne van Zyl) their way through an internal wall

•    The gang had 12-15 hours in the bank to gain entry, remove the 339 boxes and load them up.

•    The boxes were loaded into a van and removed from the premises.

•    There was only one, untrained “night” guard in a guardhouse with broken CCTV cameras provided by the owner of the building complex in which the Randburg branch of FNB rents premises. He was locked in his guardhouse and says he saw nothing. FNB itself employed no security guard at that branch. The CCTV footage was removed from the bank’s own CCTV cameras, presumably by a bank employee collaborating with the thieves.

•    At the Parktown branch, the nearest security guard was stationed at the Engen garage next door. Investigators found that he assisted the thieves to gain access to the bank through a back gate and through a fire escape door. CCTV footage shows that the safe door was deliberately left open by bank staff members before closing time, allowing the thieves easy access. Images from the footage have led investigators to believe that they are the same men who previously carried out cash-in-transit heists.

•    The name of the private security company is being withheld. Normal procedure would involve that they regularly check in with the guard on the premises – which was clearly not done.

•    An alarm went off, but the private security company that responded and somehow found nothing suspicious despite there being a guard locked in the guardhouse next door.

•    There was an ATM heist at this same branch just four months previously, which should have led to improved security measures.

•    The 339 victims have had minimal communication from FNB besides being asked to go to the police station and submit an affidavit.

•    One victim asked Bank Manager Barry Gordon if it was an internal or external wall that was breached and his response was: “It was an internal wall that was breached, but not many people know the layout of the bank.”

•    Two elderly victims (over 70) have lost a lifetime’s savings and items of great sentimental value.

•    FNB refuses to comment on the security measures in place at the branch “for security reasons”.

•    FNB refuses to comment on the number of boxes.

•    FNB refuses to communicate what and if compensation will be given to victims.

The questions the victims want answered by FNB:

•    Who else was alerted that the alarm was going off besides the private security company?

•    Why was there no bank security guard on duty?

•    Why did the private security company not check in with the guard?

•    Why did the gang have 12-15 hours to pull off the heist?

•    Why, after the previous robbery, was there no attempt to make the branch more secure?

•    When do the Hawks/police plan to release more information on the progress of this investigation?

•    Anyone affected by this heist is invited to get in contact with, and join, the group. For more information call Kelly Fraser on 083 287 8897 or email  kellyfraser03@gmail.com.

♦ Shortly before going to press, Noseweek learnt that FNB had made some token gestures in the vain hope of pacifying its unhappy clients. The bank has offered to cover the cost of replacing documents such as title deeds and passports. Without making any firm commitment, it has invited clients to submit lists of items lost and their value.

FNB has said it then planned to interview each claimant individually, preparatory to making a settlement offer at the end of April. The bank has also offered to pay any excess payments (of up to R500) required by insurers when clients have submitted claims to their own insurers.

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