SAO PAULO, Brazil – Thieves raided a Samsung electronics factory in Brazil during the night shift early Monday, subdued workers and guards, and made off with at least $6 million worth of cellphones and computers.
The gang of heavily armed men captured eight plant employees as they neared the factory in a company bus just before midnight, said civil police in Sao Paulo state. They stole the workers’ ID tags and took two of them with them as hostages as they entered the factory in the college town of Campinas. The remaining six employees were taken to an unknown location.
Once inside, the gang overpowered security guards and spent more than three hours in the plant, trucking out the electronics.
“They subdued the guards, took their weapons and their ammunition and told them to continue working as if nothing had happened,” police Lt. Vitor Chaves told the Globo television. Some workers were held captive in a separate area and others were told to hand over their phones, so they wouldn’t call the police.
In total, police suspect that 20 robbers participated, carting out more than 40,000 finished products in seven trucks.
Police had estimated the value of the stolen goods at $36 million, but Samsung later put the figure at $6 million.
Investigators are looking at security video around the South Korean company’s facility north of Sao Paulo to see if they can identify the thieves.
Samsung said in a statement that it was “very worried about the incident,” but clarified that none of the employees were hurt. “We are fully co-operating with the ongoing police investigation, and we will do our best to prevent this happening again,” the statement said.
The head of the General Investigations unit, Carlos Henrique Fernandes, hinted at the possibility the thieves worked with someone inside the factory. He told reporters that it would be difficult to commit a crime of this scale without inside help.
Campinas is known for its industrial parks where high-tech companies such as General Electric, Hewlett Packard and Dell have established some of their operations. But what is often called the Brazilian Silicon Valley has also seen a spike in cargo thefts from 425 in 2012, to 657 in 2013.