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Don’t Bank On It

Stuart White

I don’t know if any of you watched the 2008 movie starring the British actor Jason Statham and entitled The Bank Job.  The film was based on the 1971 Baker Street robbery in central London and one of its stated aims was to reveal the truth behind the robbery for the first time. 

The plot involved the British intelligence service MI5,   the notorious black gangster and erstwhile folk hero, Malcolm X as well as a member of the British Royal Family, whose reputation was said to hang on the contents, rumoured to be compromising photographs which had been placed in a safety deposit box in the bank in London’s Baker Street. 

A small-time female drug dealer was reportedly offered amnesty if she could persuade her gangster friend, played by Jason Statham, to break into the bank vaults and retrieve the box, whilst allowing him and his other gang members to help themselves to the contents of as many other boxes as they could open and rob.  The method chosen by the thieves was to rent a leather goods store called Le Sac, two doors down from the bank, then tunnel 12 metres under a fast-food restaurant in the middle before drilling through the bank walls. 

The heist was meticulously planned and carried out but partly foiled by a radio ham who picked up chatter between the robbers and their look-out, the thieves fought amongst themselves and were mostly caught, Malcolm X was hanged for the murder of his English girlfriend whom he believed had betrayed him but MI5 got what it wanted and the reputation of the royal remained intact. 

A great movie, a blend of fact and fiction but probably only scratching the surface of the fallout from the real robbery in which it was estimated that money and valuable worth about 4 million pounds, a huge sum of money in 1971, was stolen.  Even more interesting was the fact that at least 100 clients whose safety deposit boxes were emptied, never came forward to make a claim against their losses.

This last fact speaks volumes about the nature of the safety deposit box.  They are secure boxes held in the vaults of many banks and used to store whatever the client desires.  This may be perfectly legitimate – somewhere safe to store the family jewels and silver or important personal and corporate documents, for instance. 

On the other hand they might contain what one former British CID officer described on television this week as ‘ill-gotten gains’ – ‘hot’ items of stolen jewellery or large sums of money garnered from illegal operations. 

The bank asks no questions and is therefore not told any lies and with the former privacies of even the classic Swiss bank account now no longer as discreet as they once were, the anonymity of the safety deposit box remains the last bastion of the villain’s private stash.

And so as details of the daring Hatton Garden Safe Deposit theft in London over the long Easter weekend emerge it is almost déja vu all over again.  The thieves were said to have hidden inside an office in the building and waited till everything shut down for the long holiday break, after which they abseiled down the lift shaft to access the basement of the building where the boxes were held. 

Hatton Garden is an area of London known to be centre of the capital’s jewellery trade and many of the boxes were used by local shop owners and gem dealers to store some of their stock.  Many others, however, were in private hands. 

Initial estimates of the total losses was put at around 200 million pounds (P3000 million pula) but the real figure could be much higher due to the secretive nature of the box culture and their clientele and will probably, just like the Baker Street robbery, never be known. 

Flying Squad officers investigating the theft have voiced their opinion that most of the stolen jewellery will already have been shipped out of the country where identifiable pieces such are large diamonds will be re-cut and rendered unrecognisable, then quietly put up for private sale in a few months, after the current hue and cry has died down.  The daring, and long-winded heist, might even have been rumbled before it succeeded as the thieves did set off an alarm at approximately 1pm on Good Friday. 

A security guard went to investigate but finding all the doors to the building locked and no sign of forced entry or illegal activity, he took no action.  When asked later why he had not bothered to check inside, he said that would have been way above his pay scale!  As for local residents, the thieves had had the foresight to send them all letters in advance of the heist, telling them that any building noise they might hear was part of an ongoing Cross rail underground rail project.

As one of the world’s largest diamond producers, this story probably holds more than mere fascination for local readers and industry players.  It’s entirely possible that some of the stolen gems may have come from our own Kalahari diamond pipes, then have been polished and perfected in Amsterdam before being mounted in a suitable setting and sold in one of Europe’s leading jewellery stores.  And of course some of the stolen gems may also already have been stolen gems – a sort of double-jewellery-jeopardy!   

At any rate police believe the thieves knew pretty much what they were looking for in the 70 boxes they raided.  Meanwhile they are still making a detailed forensic search of the premises in an effort to uncover some clue as to the perpetrators and are remaining tight-lipped as to their findings.

As many international press reports have stated, it’s the stuff of movies.  And that movie is probably The Bank Job which is now beginning to look like the thieves’ video guide to safety deposit box theft.  What’s the betting that the producers are planning the sequel right now!

STUART WHITE is the Managing Director of HRMC and they can be reached on 395 1640 or at

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Export Processing Zones: How to Get SEZA to Sizzle

23rd September 2020
Export Processing Zone (EPZ) factory in Kenya

In 2005, the Business & Economic Advisory Council (BEAC) pitched the idea of the establishment of Special Economic Zones (SEZs) to the Mogae Administration.

It took five years before the SEZ policy was formulated, another five years before the relevant law was enacted, and a full three years before the Special Economic Zones Authority (SEZA) became operational.

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Egypt Bagged Again

23rd September 2020

… courtesy of infiltration stratagem by Jehovah-Enlil’s clan

With the passing of Joshua’s generation, General Atiku, the promised peace and prosperity of a land flowing with milk and honey disappeared, giving way to chaos and confusion.

Maybe Joshua himself was to blame for this shambolic state of affairs. He had failed to mentor a successor in the manner Moses had mentored him. He had left the nation without a central government or a human head of state but as a confederacy of twelve independent tribes without any unifying force except their Anunnaki gods.

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23rd September 2020

If I say the word ‘robot’ to you,  I can guess what would immediately spring to mind –  a cute little Android or animal-like creature with human or pet animal characteristics and a ‘heart’, that is to say to say a battery, of gold, the sort we’ve all seen in various movies and  tv shows.  Think R2D2 or 3CPO in Star Wars, Wall-E in the movie of the same name,  Sonny in I Robot, loveable rogue Bender in Futurama,  Johnny 5 in Short Circuit…

Of course there are the evil ones too, the sort that want to rise up and eliminate us  inferior humans – Roy Batty in Blade Runner, Schwarzenegger’s T-800 in The Terminator,  Box in Logan’s Run,  Police robots in Elysium and  Otomo in Robocop.

And that’s to name but a few.  As a general rule of thumb, the closer the robot is to human form, the more dangerous it is and of course the ultimate threat in any Sci-Fi movie is that the robots will turn the tables and become the masters, not the mechanical slaves.  And whilst we are in reality a long way from robotic domination, there are an increasing number of examples of  robotics in the workplace.

ROBOT BLOODHOUNDS Sometimes by the time that one of us smells something the damage has already begun – the smell of burning rubber or even worse, the smell of deadly gas. Thank goodness for a robot capable of quickly detecting and analyzing a smell from our very own footprint.

A*Library Bot The A*Star (Singapore) developed library bot which when books are equipped with RFID location chips, can scan shelves quickly seeking out-of-place titles.  It manoeuvres with ease around corners, enhances the sorting and searching of books, and can self-navigate the library facility during non-open hours.

DRUG-COMPOUNDING ROBOT Automated medicine distribution system, connected to the hospital prescription system. It’s goal? To manipulate a large variety of objects (i.e.: drug vials, syringes, and IV bags) normally used in the manual process of drugs compounding to facilitate stronger standardisation, create higher levels of patient safety, and lower the risk of hospital staff exposed to toxic substances.

AUTOMOTIVE INDUSTRY ROBOTS Applications include screw-driving, assembling, painting, trimming/cutting, pouring hazardous substances, labelling, welding, handling, quality control applications as well as tasks that require extreme precision,

AGRICULTURAL ROBOTS Ecrobotix, a Swiss technology firm has a solar-controlled ‘bot that not only can identify weeds but thereafter can treat them. Naio Technologies based in southwestern France has developed a robot with the ability to weed, hoe, and assist during harvesting. Energid Technologies has developed a citrus picking system that retrieves one piece of fruit every 2-3 seconds and Spain-based Agrobot has taken the treachery out of strawberry picking. Meanwhile, Blue River Technology has developed the LettuceBot2 that attaches itself to a tractor to thin out lettuce fields as well as prevent herbicide-resistant weeds. And that’s only scratching the finely-tilled soil.

INDUSTRIAL FLOOR SCRUBBERS The Global Automatic Floor Scrubber Machine boasts a 1.6HP motor that offers 113″ water lift, 180 RPM and a coverage rate of 17,000 sq. ft. per hour

These examples all come from the aptly-named site    because while these functions are labour-saving and ripe for automation, the increasing use of artificial intelligence in the workplace will undoubtedly lead to increasing reliance on machines and a resulting swathe of human redundancies in a broad spectrum of industries and services.

This process has been greatly boosted by the global pandemic due to a combination of a workforce on furlough, whether by decree or by choice, and the obvious advantages of using virus-free machines – I don’t think computer viruses count!  For example, it was suggested recently that their use might have a beneficial effect in care homes for the elderly, solving short staffing issues and cheering up the old folks with the novelty of having their tea, coffee and medicines delivered by glorified model cars.  It’s a theory, at any rate.

Already, customers at the South-Korean  fast-food chain No Brand Burger can avoid any interaction with a human server during the pandemic.  The chain is using robots to take orders, prepare food and bring meals out to diners.  Customers order and pay via touchscreen, then their request is sent to the kitchen where a cooking machine heats up the buns and patties. When it’s ready, a robot ‘waiter’ brings out their takeout bag.   

‘This is the first time I’ve actually seen such robots, so they are really amazing and fun,’ Shin Hyun Soo, an office worker at No Brand in Seoul for the first time, told the AP. 

Human workers add toppings to the burgers and wrap them up in takeout bags before passing them over to yellow-and-black serving robots, which have been compared to Minions. 

Also in Korea, the Italian restaurant chain Mad for Garlic is using serving robots even for sit-down customers. Using 3D space mapping and other technology, the electronic ‘waiter,’ known as Aglio Kim, navigates between tables with up to five orders.  Mad for Garlic manager Lee Young-ho said kids especially like the robots, which can carry up to 66lbs in their trays.

These catering robots look nothing like their human counterparts – in fact they are nothing more than glorified food trolleys so using our thumb rule from the movies, mankind is safe from imminent takeover but clearly  Korean hospitality sector workers’ jobs are not.

And right there is the dichotomy – replacement by stealth.  Remote-controlled robotic waiters and waitresses don’t need to be paid, they don’t go on strike and they don’t spread disease so it’s a sure bet their army is already on the march.

But there may be more redundancies on the way as well.  Have you noticed how AI designers have an inability to use words of more than one syllable?  So ‘robot’ has become ‘bot’ and ‘android’ simply ‘droid?  Well, guys, if you continue to build machines ultimately smarter than yourselves you ‘rons  may find yourself surplus to requirements too – that’s ‘moron’ to us polysyllabic humans”!

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