Police officers outside the Atlantis Resort in The Bahamas on Sunday after a foiled robbery attempt. Photo: Nassau Guardian
By Taneka Thompson
Nassau Guardian Senior Reporter
NASSAU, Bahamas -- Hotel security officers caught three unmasked thieves who hid inside a ceiling above a cashier’s cage in the casino at the Atlantis Resort in The Bahamas before gassing employees and attempting to rob the resort around midday on Sunday, police said.
Kerzner International (Bahamas) president and managing director George Markantonis said the thieves targeted an “employee only” area of the Paradise Island hotel, not the casino floor, and that guests did not witness the incident.
Police said the area that was targeted is located in the hotel’s basement.
The men were not armed with guns, but did release a chemical, believed to be Mace or tear gas, inside the cashier’s cage to immobilize staff, police said.
When The Nassau Guardian arrived on scene shortly after noon, there were several ambulances and police cars gathered outside the valet area of Coral Towers.
Five distressed female employees -- some wearing oxygen masks, others drinking water -- sat in wheelchairs and were being attended to by medical personnel. The women were later taken to hospital by ambulance for treatment.
In total, 16 employees were taken to hospital for treatment for exposure to the gas, Markantonis said.
Assistant Commissioner of Police Anthony Ferguson said the thieves’ plan was foiled by quick responding hotel security officers. However, it is unclear exactly how the men were apprehended.
Ferguson would only say they were all arrested on property.
While Markantonis told reporters that “nothing has been taken from the hotel” Ferguson said it was too early in the investigation to speak to specifics.
“At present we are unable to say how much monies were removed from the cage,” Ferguson told reporters at a press conference at Atlantis.
When asked if any money was recovered by police, he said, “We are still in the initial stages of our investigations. As soon as we are able to determine that we will make further reports.
“We can say that no money was found on the [suspects] but as we investigate we will give you more information.”
When pressed on whether police suspect there is missing cash he would only say, “We have seen some stuff and we have to make a determination as we move forward. Some things were seen and the investigation will tell us where we are at as we move forward.
“We don’t want to invite comments that could give people the impression that large sums of money are stored anywhere. As soon as we are able to make a determination we should be able to make an update.”
He also said it was too early to say if the attempted robbery was an inside job committed by current or former employees.
“We are trying to determine that and as we investigate we will be able to say clearly whether they are employees or not,” Ferguson said.
“It’s too early to give you all of the facts and circumstances surrounding this foiled plot.”
Due to the early stage of the investigation police do not know if the men were a part of a larger ring of thieves, Ferguson said.
“As we investigate we’ll be able to determine whether or not other persons were involved. If any other persons are involved we want to be able to catch them.”
He also could not say if the men have a criminal past.
Ferguson said police “locked down” the area soon after the attempted robbery, including the two bridges that connect the island to New Providence.
Curious hotel guests milled about the scene, some asking staff what happened as armed officers patrolled the area.
Markantonis and Ferguson credited the hotel’s security staff for the quick apprehension of the suspects.
The suspects are all Bahamians, ages 24, 31 and 30, according to police.
Meanwhile, Atlantis moved quickly to prevent fallout from attempted heist
Markantonis said it is “disappointing” when criminals target tourist hot spots, but would not speculate on any possible industry fallout stemming from the foiled robbery.
Markantonis said while crime is not good for business, it is an unfortunate reality that plagues many societies.
“Crime is not a good thing and anyone can tell you that,” Markantonis said.
“Crime happens everywhere, in every jurisdiction, in every country around the world. I’d like to think that the positive side of this is we reacted quickly, efficiently -- nothing happened.
“Everyone was caught and that says something about how secure this place is.”
Markantonis said guests did not witness the incident and that everyone on the property was safe.
He added that the hotel is proud of its security systems and added that yesterday’s events showed “that they work”.
“The plan didn’t succeed, all the perpetrators are in police custody. Nothing has been taken,” he said.
“Our guests were not involved. This happened in an all-associate area.
“I mean our guests did of course notice the ambulances and we have reassured them we have very sophisticated internal and external communication systems and have reassured them that this is nothing to worry about.”
Asked if he thought more would-be thieves would set their sights on Atlantis, Markantonis said, “When you’ve got something as big and successful as Atlantis, you might be vulnerable to attacks.
“To be honest, I think there’s a hell of a lot of easier targets. You’ve really got to be a very confident crook if you want to come over here.”
Republished with permission of the Nassau Guardian