Brinks Mat Robbery

Almost some forty years ago, on a dark and cold winter’s morning in November 1983, a gang of five armed robbers were sitting in a stolen blue Transit van on London’s Heathrow airport trading estate’s secured area, waiting for their bloke, their inside man, to tip up. Their bloke was going to lead them into the Brink’s-Mat warehouse where the robbers believed their take was going to be around £ 1M worth of Spanish Pesetas. What they soon found out, after pouring petrol onto the warehouse staff and threatening to throw a lit match, was the take was bigger – much bigger – and it consisted of 3,000kg of pure gold bullion; platinum; 1000 carats of diamonds and $ 250,000 in traveller’s cheques. The total take came in at £ 26M in 1983 money – in today’s money it’s worth some £ 93M or in Banana Republic of Mzansi Rands = R 2.114BN. That’s some chunk of change. 

Squirrel Ramaphosa’s Phala Phala prized heifer called “Pata Pata” only fetched R 675,000 at a recent auction. So, the Brink’s-Mat take of R 2.114BN is worth the equivalent of 3,131 Pata Pata’s. You can keep your Phala Phala cattle thanks very much. I’ll keep my gold.

The problem the Brink’s-Mat heist gang had, was what exactly to do with the 3,000kg of gold bullion. Think about it, this was 6,840 solid gold bars. Certain eyewitnesses hilariously claim to have seen a wheezing engine blue Transit van chugging very low on its suspension along the motorway outside Heathrow.

Scotland Yard investigators moved fast and fingered the inside man as being the security guard who let the robbers into the Brink’s-Mat vault. After putting the inside man’s head between the holding cell bars and a Union Jack emblazoned concrete block, the inside man, after just a single night in police custody, confessed to everything and named the culprits.  

The rest of the show put on by Scotland Yard and the Crown Prosecution Service – not dissimilar from SAPS and the NPA – turned out to be more useless than a prostate removed middle-aged bloke pissing feebly against a black South Easter wind. Despite the criminal court trial at the Old Bailey and convictions for two of the five gang members, most of the gold was never recovered. 

£ 1M of the gold was found stored at the Bank of England; by 1996 half of the gold, which had previously been melted and recast, was believed to have resurfaced on the legitimate gold market. Some in the know maintain that anyone who purchased gold jewellery after 1983 was probably wearing Brink’s-Mat gold. 

The complete failure of Scotland Yard to nip the Brink’s-Mat case in the bud permitted the remaining gang members to get involved in more complex methods of laundering by getting hooked up with scumbag lawyers, property developers; and gun-runners and drug-traffickers in Spain and the US. It is claimed that laundered profits from the heist were invested into the Thames River Docklands developments of the 1980’s and this delivered up some fabulous returns on investment.    

Now, let’s cut to the year 2018 and local sleazeball, Thabo-not-Thabo-who-knows-who-he-really-is-Bester, and his partner-in-schlenter, the very attractive celebrity Doctor, Nandipha Magudumana. 

The Thabo-Nandipha operation (“TNO”) had a few sleazy gigs on the go – one of which was getting hold of gullible investors who parted with their hard-earned-cash; alternatively, government grift scumbags who gambled high-stakes style with their easy-come-easy-go corrupt money looking for high returns, by promising both groups of investors excellent returns in construction projects which, in reality, never existed. 

TNO also ran a gig from the comfort of Thabo’s cell, where he claimed to be a bloke called “Tom Motsepe”, the chairman of 21st Century Media, which was made to look like a subsidiary of the actual Murdoch family media and film company, 21st Century Fox, which is now called Fox Corporation. The apparent real owner of 21st Century Media (Pty) Ltd, one Phumudzo Thenga, claims she was scammed by TNO by having paid money into a fake company called Optimum Medical Holdings Group.

One has to question the brain capacity of the individuals who invested their cash – licit or illicit – into the TNO. Also remember though, some illicit operators do have to show a loss for tax or business purposes.  

It’s still too early in the game to work out exactly how much money TNO got away with, and who exactly the other gang-members are. But what’s already as clear as a head-on collision between a horse and trailer carrying gas and a low-slung concrete bridge, is employees in G4S security company played a money incentivised role in springing convicted murderer-rapist Thabo from his jail cell and faking his death with a sizzled-to-better-than-well-done-crispy fake Thabo corpse. 

But the question which remains, in the bigger scheme of things, is although TNO do get an award for criminal creativity, their take – even in optimistic tens of millions of Rands – is pretty pedestrian compared to the Brink’s-Mat heist; as is Squirrel Ramaphosa’s Phala Phala money-laundering cattle to $ 580K / R 10.4M in US Dollars bank notes operation.

If I’m ever insane, or desperate, or foolish, or malevolent enough to get involved in crime, then I’m going large – Brink’s-Mat style – and I’ll make off with the very least of half a billion Rands. 

Not this local Mzansi chicken bones stuff.

Contributed by:
Barry Varkel, an attorney of the High Court of South Africa and Solicitor of the Supreme Court of England and Wales.
Author of Nigiri Law and Goy Vey


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