Brazil Bandits Use Heavy Weaponry in Raid on Paraguay Vault

(Bloomberg) -- Thieves in Paraguay killed one police officer, injured another and left three civilians wounded in a brazen overnight raid on a cash-storage facility involving hand grenades, military assault rifles and explosives.

Dozens of heavily-armed assailants attacked a Prosegur SA depot in Ciudad del Este, near the border with Brazil and Argentina. The gang set fire to numerous vehicles during the assault in the early hours of Monday morning, blocking roads around the facility. There are no official estimates as to the amount stolen in the robbery. Local media put the figure at $40 million.

Brazil Bandits Use Heavy Weaponry in Raid on Paraguay Vault

Police inspect a vault that the assailants blew up April 24.

Photographer: Mariana Ladaga/Diario ABC Color via AP Photo

Ciudad del Este has gained notoriety for trade in illicit and counterfeit items, rampant crime, and the presence of international criminal groups. Paraguay’s interior ministry believes the robbery was carried out by a Brazilian criminal organization, according to spokesman Vladimir Jara. No one thought to be directly involved in the heist has so far been detained.

In a statement, Prosegur offered condolences for the death of the police officer and expressed support for the work of the law enforcement agencies in the city. It also noted its concern over the "organization, capacity and war-like equipment used by organized crime in this act."

Brazil’s federal police are willing to assist Paraguayan authorities in the investigation, according to a statement from the presidency. Brazil’s federal government is closely monitoring developments and will help their Paraguayan counterparts with all resources necessary.

Argentina has strengthened security at its nearby border, is helping Paraguay trace the origin of the weapons and has offered its neighbor assistance, Security Minister Patricia Bullrich said.

Paraguay has been one of the Latin America’s fastest growing economies in the past five years, outpacing larger nations like Brazil and Argentina that both slipped into recession. The luster of Paraguay’s success has recently been tarnished by protesters who set fire to part of Congress on March 31 after ruling party senators approved a measure to allow presidents to be re-elected.

After the violence and protests from opposition lawmakers, President Horacio Cartes has promised not to seek another term in 2018 even if the measure is approved by the lower house.