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Episode 71: El golpe (The job)

By Duolingo on Thu 19 Nov 2020

It's the version of the heist you haven't yet heard: the day of the robbery, from the thieves' point of view. Hear the play-by-play of what really happened inside the Río Bank on January 13, 2006. With everything planned down to the smallest detail, what could go wrong?

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Transcript

Martina: The day had finally arrived. Friday, January 13th, 2006. In a couple of hours, the robbers would attempt to pull off the most shocking bank heist in Argentina's history. But first…a coffee. Here's thief Alberto de la Torre.

Alberto de la Torre: Era viernes y hacía mucho calor. Nos vimos en un bar a unas diez cuadras del banco que íbamos a robar. Estábamos tomando un café, como un grupo normal de amigos.

Martina: De la Torre remembers thinking that by the end of the day, nothing in their lives would be the same. They would either wind up millionaires…or go to prison. But there was no time for doubts. They had to go over every single detail.

Alberto de la Torre: Primero repasamos el plan paso a paso, desde la entrada en el banco hasta la salida al vehículo. Repasamos cada detalle, sin olvidar nada.

Martina: The group then left the café and split up. Alberto de la Torre got in a car with the mastermind behind the plan, Fernando Araujo, and the negotiator, Mario Vitette. Vitette wore a gray suit that would soon become famous. They drove to the bank and used their car to block the entrance to the underground garage, or estacionamiento.

Alberto de la Torre: Lo dejamos cubriendo la entrada del estacionamiento del banco. Nadie podía salir ni entrar. Yo entré por la puerta principal, Vitette entró por el estacionamiento. Araujo llegó con otro auto y entró cinco minutos después. Ahora sí, el banco estaba completamente tomado por nosotros.

Martina: As he walked through the door, Alberto de la Torre took out the shotgun that later he would swear was a total fake. But to the people in the bank that day, it looked like a deadly weapon.

Alberto de la Torre: En aquel momento, yo anuncié el robo. Grité porque todos me tenían que oír: "Todos al suelo".

Martina: Bienvenidos and welcome to El gran robo argentino — The Great Argentine Heist, a special serialized season of the Duolingo Spanish Podcast. I'm Martina Castro.

Today we relive the play by play of the heist, but now from the robbers' perspective. It's the version of events you haven't heard yet: what really happened inside the bank that day? Our narrator for this episode is thief Alberto de la Torre. And, through reenactments, we'll be including details that witnesses shared after the fact with police and the courts. As always, you can follow along with full transcripts at podcast.duolingo.com.

Now, Episode 5: The Job, El golpe.

Martina: As Alberto de la Torre was entering the bank, Julián Zalloechevarría, the driver, was busy parking the getaway van several blocks away. He parked on top of the designated pickup spot — just above a manhole cover in the middle of the street. It was noon, and Sebastián García Bolster, the Engineer, had been waiting underground for hours. His main task for the day was to finish drilling the hole, or agujero, that would connect the tunnel to the basement of the bank.

Alberto de la Torre: El Ingeniero tenía que esperar del otro lado de la pared dentro del túnel. Desde adentro, alguien iba a romper la pared. Pero todo tenía que quedar perfecto porque era nuestra única salida.

Martina: Back inside the bank, the lobby was as busy as on any typical weekday. There were couples out running errands, older folks waiting in line for the tellers, or cajeros. Everyone was focused on their own business, too busy to notice the three robbers who had just walked in…until Alberto de la Torre ordered everyone to the ground. Suddenly, it was chaos…

Alberto de la Torre: Hubo mucho desorden. Muchas personas se quedaron de pie, sorprendidas. Después, vi que entró una persona con una gorra y caminó hacia el área de los cajeros muy cerca de la puerta. Corrí detrás de él, le dije: "Para" y le apunté con mi arma de juguete. Él me respondió: "Espera, ¡soy yo!". Era Araujo.

Martina: De la Torre had accidentally pointed his gun at his fellow thief, the mastermind of the plan.

Alberto de la Torre: No lo había reconocido. Araujo tenía unos lentes de sol y una gorra, y por eso no pude reconocerlo. Todos estábamos disfrazados.

Martina: They had fashioned disguises in hopes of confusing the police and instead ended up confusing one another. De la Torre was dressed in a baggy lab coat, looking like a doctor. Araujo was wearing sunglasses and a hat. It didn't take long for the police to show up. Officers arrived within minutes of De la Torre waving his weapon. But the robbers had been expecting that — in fact, they wanted the police to think that they were trapped inside the building.

Alberto de la Torre: Entonces Araujo creó una distracción. Él tomó a un rehén y simuló que este estaba tratando de escapar del banco. Salió por la puerta con el rehén y le apuntó con el arma falsa a la cabeza. La policía tenía que pensar que había tomado a un rehén como escudo de protección y tenía la intención de escapar. Pero al ver tanta policía, volvió a entrar. Esa era la idea.

Martina: Seeing the thief and a hostage, a police officer outside the bank yelled:

Officer M.: ¡Alto, policía!

Martina: Araujo rushed back inside the bank, as though he had prevented the hostage's escape. But it was all a show. The thieves wanted the police to think their whole plan had already fallen apart.

Alberto de la Torre: Era un teatro. Araujo simuló que usó a un rehén como escudo de protección y le hizo creer a la policía que nosotros queríamos escapar, pero que no habíamos podido.

Martina: The thieves had a few more tricks up their sleeves. Next, Vitette, the man in the gray suit, called a local TV channel, and asked if they would put him on the air. He knew the channel would refuse his request. But he also knew that to the police, a media request looked like an act of desperation.

Alberto de la Torre: La idea era hacerle pensar a la policía que este era un robo exprés que estaba saliendo mal, como era el caso con muchos otros robos. Teníamos que hacerles creer a los policías que ellos tenían el control de todo y que nosotros estábamos en problemas. Pero, en realidad, era todo lo contrario.

Martina: Now that the thieves had the police fully convinced that they were trapped and desperate, it was time for the next part of their plan. They got the key to the bank's front door from a security guard and locked it. From now on, the hostages would remain down on the floor, always supervised by one of the robbers. With the hostages under control, Araujo and De la Torre focused on deactivating all the security cameras.

Alberto de la Torre: Después de nuestras visitas al banco, descubrimos que había un guardia en un búnker de seguridad y necesitábamos sacarlo de ahí. Para presionar al guardia, llevamos a una empleada del banco a la puerta del búnker.

Martina: To pressure the security guard into leaving his bunker, the thieves took a female hostage with them into the basement.

Alberto de la Torre: Le íbamos a decir que si no salía, la matábamos. Esto era también parte del teatro, era solo para asustarlo.

Martina: The robbers knew it was critical to get him away from the security cameras, so no one would see what they did next. But the security guard wasn't budging.

Alberto de la Torre: Araujo le gritaba al guardia de seguridad y le decía que si no salía del búnker, iba a matar a la empleada. Lo decía de manera muy convincente.

Martina: The hostage begged the guard to come out. But the woman's screams weren't enough to move the guard.

Alberto de la Torre: Al final llegó Mario Vitette, que era el hombre del traje gris. Él era muy bueno para estas cosas y un excelente actor. Vitette le dijo: "Esto es un robo exprés que salió mal. Nada malo va a pasar. No podemos escapar y ahora estamos negociando para entregarnos".

Martina: Entregarse, to turn themselves in… Vitette suspected the security guard might be an off-duty police officer, by the way he spoke. A lot of officers moonlighted as private security guards in their off-duty hours. They were trained to manage situations exactly like this one, and they knew how to use a gun. If the robbery was going to stay on track, the thieves needed to get him out of his bunker, and fast. Suddenly, the guard said:

Guard: "Yo salgo, pero solo si me dejan salir del banco y a las mujeres también".

Martina: The thieves considered the guard's request.

Alberto de la Torre: Vitette le respondió al policía: "Las reglas las ponemos nosotros, pero podemos negociar las condiciones". Finalmente, después de presionarlo mucho, el policía salió.

Martina: The thieves agreed to release the guard — but on his own. His surrender was a victory for the robbers — and a huge relief. Time was ticking. Vitette took him up to the main floor. Then, as promised, the robbers opened the bank's front door and sent the guard out…

Alberto de la Torre: El policía del banco salió con las manos en alto por la puerta principal del banco. Salió solo y caminó hasta donde estaban los otros policías.

Martina: Once the security guard was gone, the robbers took care of the video surveillance: they covered the cameras or turned them towards the floor or the ceiling. They also closed the sliding gate to the parking lot. The building was now in their hands, and it was time for the next part of the plan: they needed to make sure they had an escape route — they needed to finish the tunnel.

Alberto de la Torre: Ahora íbamos a abrir el túnel en el cuarto de mantenimiento del sótano. Le quitamos la llave al otro guardia de seguridad, el que nos había dado la llave de la entrada del banco.

Martina: Meanwhile, Alberto de la Torre was upstairs, with the task of keeping the hostages, or rehenes, calm and under control.

Alberto de la Torre: Eran más de veinte rehenes y teníamos que mantener la calma porque algunos rehenes estaban muy nerviosos. Yo tenía que tranquilizarlos porque nadie podía hacer ninguna locura como salir corriendo o intentar detenernos.

Martina: De la Torre drew on the lines he had rehearsed for this very moment.

Alberto de la Torre: Les dije: "Esto es un robo exprés que salió mal. Estamos esperando al fiscal para entregarnos".

Martina: It was a lie, of course — all part of the plan. But by saying that they were ready to turn themselves in, De la Torre was able to calm the hostages down.

Alberto de la Torre: Pusimos a las personas en el suelo boca abajo y les pedimos silencio.

Martina: Suddenly, a woman's cell phone started ringing. De la Torre asked her what was wrong, and she told him:

Hostage: "Es que hoy es mi cumpleaños".

Martina: De la Torre was amused. Here was an opportunity for him to show the hostages he wasn't such a bad guy.

Alberto de la Torre: Yo le dije: "Feliz cumpleaños, quédese tranquila que en un rato ya se va a ir para su casa".

Martina: Next, De la Torre started picking hostages and letting them leave through the front door. He was careful to choose the people who seemed to be the most distraught.

Alberto de la Torre: Si alguien estaba muy nervioso, yo lo liberaba. Por ejemplo, dejé salir a un hombre y también a una señora. Así la policía se quedaba tranquila y los rehenes también. Esto contribuyó a nuestro objetivo principal: ganar tiempo, porque abajo estaban terminando el túnel.

Martina: In the supply closet downstairs, Araujo, the mastermind, was giving orders via walkie talkie. From the tunnel inside the sewer, García Bolster, the engineer, started jackhammering the wall. Araujo did the same from the other side. But… what if their calculations had been wrong and the engineer couldn't reach the supply closet?

Alberto de la Torre: Si los cálculos eran incorrectos, todo iba a ser inútil no íbamos a poder escapar. Nos íbamos a quedar atrapados ahí.

Martina: After a few anxious moments, the wall inside the supply closet cracked. Engineer García Bolster poked his face through the hole and said hello.

Alberto de la Torre: Nosotros habíamos terminado el agujero que durante tanto tiempo habíamos planificado. Teníamos una vía de escape. El siguiente paso era traer la máquina para abrir las cajas de seguridad.

Martina: Now, it was time to crack open the safe-deposit boxes and empty them, or vaciarlas. Alberto de la Torre stayed upstairs with the hostages while Araujo and the engineer went to retrieve their 'power cannon' — the jackhammer that they had modified.

Alberto de la Torre: Lo llevamos del garaje hasta el armario de adentro. Luego pusimos un cronómetro. Teníamos tres horas para vaciar la mayor cantidad de cajas.

Martina: The engineer aimed the 'cannon' at the first safe-deposit box. Within two seconds, they heard the lock twisting. They had opened the first box.

Alberto de la Torre: Esa fue una razón para celebrar. Todo estaba saliendo como queríamos.

Martina: Meanwhile, up in the lobby, Mario Vitette, the man in the gray suit, played the role of negotiator, still trying to buy precious time. He walked in circles near the windows and sat for a while with his feet up on a desk. He used the phone they had taken from the security guard to call the police.

Alberto de la Torre: Vitette hizo su mejor actuación. Le dijo al negociador de la policía que el robo nos había salido mal y que la policía nos había descubierto. Continuó y le dijo que íbamos a esperar al fiscal para negociar nuestra entrega y una sentencia sin prisión.

Martina: While Mario Vitette played his part perfectly upstairs, downstairs, Araujo and García Bolster were frantically opening safe-deposit boxes, one after the other. They had a strict three hour window to get all the loot that they could. The jackhammer they had rigged worked perfectly. It could open a security deposit box in two minutes flat, with little noise.

Alberto de la Torre: Nosotros vimos muchos dólares y joyas en las cajas. Incluso encontramos obras de arte. Hasta un botón que parecía una antigüedad china. Pusimos todo en unas bolsas fabricadas especialmente para el robo. Eran de una tela muy resistente con nylon adentro.

Martina: They opened box after box until time ran out. The stopwatch was at zero. It had been three hours.

Alberto de la Torre: Todo pasó rápidamente. Araujo nos dijo que era el momento de salir. Eran casi las tres de la tarde. Entonces Vitette le pidió seis pizzas al negociador para ganar más tiempo.

Martina: With police distracted by the pizza order, it was now time for the final part of the plan: the escape. The thieves had been in the bank long enough that they thought the police might start getting impatient. They placed their fake guns on the floor in a neat row, and taped a note to the wall above them. The note, of course, would soon become famous.

Alberto de la Torre: "En barrio de ricachones, sin armas ni rencores, es solo plata y no amores".

Martina: “In a neighborhood of rich people, without weapons or grudges, there's just money, no love."

Alberto de la Torre: El mensaje detrás de esto era que las personas no debían tomarse el robo como algo personal. Este era un robo al banco y ellos podían usar tranquilamente sus seguros. Ese "barrio de ricachones" era el barrio de Araujo, así que les hablaba a sus propios vecinos.

Martina: The robbers then silently left the bank, leaving the hostages alone. Alberto de la Torre made it out first, along with García Bolster, the engineer. Araujo and Vitette threw the trash bags full of valuables down the tunnel, where De la Torre caught them. Once all the bags were out, Araujo and Vitette cleaned up the escape room. The robbers wanted to leave a scene that would confuse the police…and slow down their pursuit.

Alberto de la Torre: Araujo y Vitette limpiaron muy bien el cuarto de mantenimiento para distraer a la policía y no mostrar la salida tan claramente. Vitette bajó después con su traje gris a la alcantarilla y el último fue Araujo. Desde el túnel, él arrastró el armario con una soga para ponerlo en su lugar original.

Martina: The room was clean, and the hole was concealed by the cabinet they had dragged back against the wall with a rope, or soga. To anyone who entered, it would appear to be an empty, untouched storage space. As a final measure, they placed a grenade in the tunnel from the other side. It was a fake, a replica, but the thieves knew it looked real enough to fool the police for a little while.

Alberto de la Torre: Todo parecía estar saliendo a la perfección. No les dijimos nada a los rehenes. Teníamos que seguir con nuestro plan y ahora era el momento para la parte más difícil: escapar sin ser vistos. Y eso hicimos.

Martina: Down in the sewer, they had left an inflatable boat, which they would use to carry the loot 14 blocks to where the van was parked. The plan had gone perfectly — they were almost out of danger — but then, the boat's engine wouldn't start. They would have to use paddles, or remos.

Alberto de la Torre: Empezamos a remar. Teníamos que llegar a la camioneta rápidamente. Remamos en silencio durante diez minutos. Habíamos llegado a la mitad del camino cuando Vitette intentó encender el motor de nuevo. ¡Y encendió!

Martina: When the thieves finally reached the spot where the van was parked, they climbed up the ladder from the sewer and into the floor of the getaway van. Zalloechevarría, the driver, was waiting for them.

Alberto de la Torre: Nosotros subimos desde la alcantarilla y salimos directamente al interior de la camioneta. Nadie nos vio. No tuvimos problemas, todo salió según el plan. Estábamos felices.

Martina: Finally, the engineer, García Bolster, pulled up the ladder, leaving no sign that the manhole had been their escape route. They left the boats in the sewer below to float away.

Alberto de la Torre: Nosotros teníamos ropa seca dentro de la camioneta, así que nos cambiamos. Yo me saqué mi disfraz y me puse un pantalón corto y una camiseta. Zalloechevarría encendió la camioneta y nos fuimos a una casa que habíamos preparado para el escape. Llegamos en menos de diez minutos porque estábamos muy cerca del banco. Era el lugar donde íbamos a repartir el botín. Antes de entrar, yo fui a un negocio a comprar cervezas y unas galletas para celebrar.

Martina: De la Torre finally made it to Araujo's place around six in the evening. The rest of the thieves had already unloaded the van. Now it was time to divide their loot, or botín. The first thing they did was separate the cash from the jewels.

Alberto de la Torre: Era mucho dinero. Yo no podía creerlo. ¡Nunca antes había visto una fortuna tan grande! Hicimos una gran montaña de billetes y empezamos a contarlos. Nos llevó mucho tiempo contar todo. Secamos los billetes húmedos con aire caliente. El olor era horrible, era el olor de las alcantarillas.

Martina: They didn't know it then, but the stench of that wet money would come back to haunt them. While they were sorting the piles of valuables, television was on in the background, tuned to the news. The robbery was on every channel.

De la Torre remembers that no one on TV knew that they were already long gone. At that point, the police still thought they were barricaded inside the bank.

Alberto de la Torre: Yo estaba viendo la televisión y la policía no entraba al banco. En las noticias nadie sabía qué estaba pasando dentro del banco y solo decían que los ladrones habían cortado la comunicación. Y era verdad. ¡Nosotros ya estábamos en la casa celebrando!

Martina: At Araujo's, the thieves showered and cleaned up. Alberto de la Torre shaved his beard. Everyone put their disguises in a trash bag, which they planned to dispose of far away from the city.

Alberto de la Torre: Mientras seguíamos contando el dinero, en la televisión veíamos que las horas pasaban y el grupo élite de la policía no entraba. Era como estar viendo una película de acción donde los protagonistas éramos nosotros.

Martina: At 7:15 p.m., four hours after their escape, a SWAT team finally stormed the bank.

Alberto de la Torre: Era muy divertido ver la inseguridad de la policía y de los medios de comunicación. Mientras tanto, nosotros celebrábamos y nos reíamos muchísimo de la situación. "Se esfumaron", decían todos.

Martina: They had vanished, se esfumaron.

It would still be hours before police finally found the hole in the basement. The thieves knew their meticulous planning had paid off: they felt like they had all the time in the world to finish dividing the loot and say their goodbyes.

Alberto de la Torre: Cuando la policía encontró el túnel, ya era de noche y estaba oscuro. Nosotros estábamos cansados, pero felices. Había sido un día largo e intenso. Sabíamos que al ver la granada falsa, ellos iban a llamar al equipo de explosivos. ¿Y el túnel? Lo iban a descubrir, pero horas después. Todo seguía según el plan.

Martina: Before parting ways, everyone swore not to pawn the loot or touch the money for a full year, so it could not be traced, or rastreado.

Alberto de la Torre: Nosotros decidimos unas semanas antes que era muy importante no usar el dinero. ¿Por qué? Porque, en algún momento, el nombre de alguno de nosotros iba a llegar a la policía y el dinero era lo más fácil de rastrear.

Martina: As he made his promise, Alberto de la Torre thought about his wife, Alicia, who was back home waiting for him.

Alberto de la Torre: Yo le dije a mi mujer: "Esta plata no se toca por un año".

Martina: It's the heist of the century…and the thieves have actually pulled it off — deceiving hostages and security guards, while always staying two steps ahead of the police. With everything planned down to the smallest detail, the robbers have managed to escape with millions. But we all know what happens next. As the thieves become folk heroes…they're also caught by the police, one by one.

Today you've heard the story from their point of view…but what about the hostages? What was it like for them inside the bank that day? It will be a long time before they get their chance to tell their side of the story…but when they do, it will be in court, and the public will hang onto their every word.

María Ripetta: El robo era considerado como un robo "amable". La gente decía que los ladrones habían tratado muy bien a los rehenes. Durante el juicio, escuchamos por primera vez a las verdaderas víctimas de este robo.

Martina: That's next time, on the final episode of El gran robo argentino — The Great Argentine Heist, a special season of the Duolingo Spanish Podcast, produced by Duolingo and Adonde Media. You can find all of the episodes and transcripts at podcast.duolingo.com. A special thanks to Christian Di Pasquo, Nadia Chiaramoni, and Mariano Pagella for lending their voices to the court testimony in this episode.

Credits

This episode was produced by Duolingo and Adonde Media.

Producers: Tali Goldman & Alejandro Marinelli
Editor: Catalina May
Managing Editor: David Alandete
Executive Editor: Martina Castro
Mixing: Andrés Fechtenholtz & Martín Pérez Roa
Mastering Engineers: Martín Cruz & Antonio Romero
Sound Designer: Antonio Romero
Original Music: Antonio Romero
Production Managers: Mariano Pagella & Román Frontini