Grab for gold bar a comedy of errors

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 29 October, 2002, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 29 October, 2002, 12:00am

Robbers have attempted to grab the very symbol of Japan's financial folly but, as if in keeping with the spirit of things, they bungled the attempt.

The object of their attention, a 63kg solid gold bar, was made in 1989 from funds donated to the small town of Tsuna by a government so awash with cash at the time that it gave away money.

Then prime minister Noboru Takeshita gave every city, town and village 100 million yen to spend any way they wished. Most opted to build monuments and some gave their residents a fully paid overseas holiday.

But the mayor of Tsuna, on Awajishima island, decided to use the money to forge a gold bar and put it on display. It proved the most popular legacy of that largesse, and thousands of people flocked to see it.

On Sunday night, two men rammed their van through a display room wall and attached cables to the case housing the bar. Despite an alarm going off, the robbers seemed confident that they could get their hands on the gold long before police arrived.

They would have been right except for the ensuing comedy of errors. First the cables were not long enough, forcing the van further into the building. Then a cable snapped under the weight of the 500kg protective case.

After a new cable was attached, the van got stuck in rubble of its own making. Eventually the vehicle was able to drag the case a few metres, but the cable snapped again.

By then, there was no time to fix it as the police finally answered the alarm. They turned up only to see the white van make its getaway, with cables dangling. Yesterday, the gold bar was removed to a safer undisclosed location, but the legacy of what it stands for remains.