BOGOTA, Oct. 31 -- The suspected mastermind behind a $30 million robbery in Colombia, Jaime Bonilla Esquivel, handed himself in to authorities Monday, saying police in the northern city of Valledupar had threatened to kill him if he turned them in. The Colombian pesos equivalent of $30 million was stolen from a Banco de la Republica vault on Oct. 10, causing financial havoc in northern Colombia as businesses were placed on the lookout for the serial numbers.
The money, stolen from the bank branch in Valledupar, was all in new bills that had not been placed in circulation. Bonilla's lawyer, Luis Hernandez, said that much of the stolen money was in the hands of police in Valledupar, who had threatened to kill Bonilla if he gave them away. Last week, the Colombian government offered a $124,000 reward for information leading to the capture of Bonilla, who they feared had escaped to neighboring Venezuela. Police said Bonilla, who surrendered fearing for his life, turned himself in carrying 200 million pesos ($246,000) of the stolen money. Five former police agents have been arrested in connection with the bank heist, which was dubbed 'the robbery of the century.' Police are searching for 15 other suspects.