Picture: SUPPLIED
Picture: SUPPLIED

The brazen theft of safety deposit boxes at a second Johannesburg branch of First National Bank (FNB) has heightened questions about the bank’s security measures and left more people devastated by the loss of their valuables.

Thieves reportedly penetrated a vault at FNB Parktown on New Year’s Eve and made off with R1.7m in cash and valuables from about 30 safety deposit boxes.

This follows the heist at FNB in Randburg on December 18‚ when thieves made off with 360 safety deposit boxes after tying up the lone security guard on duty and then using a jackhammer to gain access.

Two days later police found 252 of the boxes dumped in a field outside the FNB stadium. They had been forced open and emptied of jewellery‚ Krugerrands and other valuables‚ with only documents left behind.

No arrests have been made in either case.

FNB’s safety deposit contract states that the bank will not be legally responsible "under any circumstances for any loss or damage that may occur to the contents" and urges customers to insure the contents‚ but victims of the first heist are contemplating legal action‚ alleging that the bank was negligent in not securing the facility appropriately.

They were paying monthly fees of a few hundred rand to secure their valuables.

Lee-Anne van Zyl‚ CEO of FNB Points of Presence‚ confirmed to ConsumerLIVE that the debit orders of "impacted" clients had been cancelled.

Asked what the bank was doing to return the passports‚ title deeds and other important documents that were recovered to their owners as soon as possible to spare them the inconvenience and expense of replacing them‚ Van Zyl said the documents were still in the police’s possession.

"FNB will be guided by the investigation process regarding the way forward‚" she said.

Several victims have also expressed anger about a letter they received from the manager of the FNB Randburg branch‚ which referred to "our recent telephone call to you … confirming that a burglary occurred".

They say bank staff did not called them to inform them of the burglary.

"I heard about it on the radio and called the Randburg branch for more information‚" said James Miles.

"We read about (the heist)‚ phoned and then went in‚" said a woman named only as Nicole on the victims’ WhatsApp group. "(The manager) gave us a letter confirming their call to us. I have written to them disputing this."

Asked to respond‚ FNB said: "Nothing further to add."

Ironically‚ Miles opened his safety deposit box account with FNB Randburg more than two years ago‚ and was contacted in September to say that he had not been debited for the rental.

"In the almost two years that I unwittingly didn’t pay, I never once received any sort of notification or demand from the bank whatsoever‚" he said.

"Rather than collect the contents of the box‚ my wife and I went in at the end of November to pay up the arrears, about R5,000‚ and we’d been paying about R230 a month since."

Now the box and its contents are gone — his late mother’s charm bracelet‚ all his wife’s valuable jewellery‚ expensive watches‚ valuable coins‚ many gold and silver coins and R160,000 in cash.

"It’s a massive blow to us — basically our life’s savings. We decided on the safe box in case we had a home invasion and they forced us to open the safe."

For information about the FNB bank heist victims’ support group‚ contact Kelly Fraser on 083-287-8897 or e-mail: kellyfraser03@gmail.com

TMG Digital

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