How fake roadworks crew stole $2.3m

A Melbourne man denies involvement in an unbelievably daring robbery – a $2.3m heist from a bank security van by a fake roadworks crew.

Lawyers for a man accused of an unbelievably daring $2.3m armed robbery in the 90s have asked a jury to question the credibility of the prosecution’s star witness.

Pasquale Lanciana – usually called Percy – is fighting charges stemming from the 1994 stick-up in Melbourne when an Armaguard van full of millions of dollars from the Reserve Bank was held up by a fake roadworks crew.

His lawyer Nola Karapanagiotidis told the County Court of Victoria on Wednesday that it wasn’t in dispute that the robbery happened.

About 10am on June 22, 1994, a five-man crew – wearing hi-vis and surrounded by orange witches hats – used a reversible slow/stop sign to halt an Armaguard van just off the now-named Monash Freeway in Melbourne’s centre.

One man started up a loud concrete saw, another drove a ute into position to block the scene from traffic, and two men jumped into the back of the van.

Mysteriously, they seemed to have a key.

The fake roadworkers corralled the three Armaguard workers into the back of the truck at gunpoint, handcuffed them, put garbage bags over their heads and drove off – ditching the van at a secondary location and making off with $2.3m.

The van had been travelling from the Reserve Bank in Collins Street to a depot in Carrum Downs before the dramatic midmorning turn of events.

The crime has remained unsolved for more than 25 years.

And Mr Lanciana maintains he wasn’t involved.

His lawyer said the “critical” piece of evidence was a woman who told police that Mr Lanciana shared details about the robbery with her.

“There’s no dispute that the armed robbery occurred,” the lawyer said.

“There’s no dispute that what appears to have taken place was sophisticated, well planned and prepared.

“The issue in dispute is whether Pasquale ‘Percy’ Lanciana committed this crime.

“The case against this man really does boil down to admissions that he’s alleged to have made.

“Did she have any motive by making a statement to police? Did she have anything to gain? Did she have anything to lose?

“Consider her credibility and reliability as a witness.”

The witness also wore a wire and recorded Mr Lanciana saying he organised the crime, prosecutor Jim Shaw told the jury.

Ms Karapanagiotidis countered that his words were “bravado”, with “something else lying behind them rather than representing a truthful statement by him”.

The woman cannot be identified by court order to protect her safety.

Mr Lanciana is also charged with money laundering offences.

Mr Shaw alleged that about a month after the robbery, Mr Lanciana bought a block of land in Williamstown for $955,000.

“You wouldn’t get much in Melbourne for that these days,” he commented.

He alleged that Mr Lanciana signed purchase documents agreeing to pay $555,000 – which was legitimate – and then paid the additional $400,000 in under-the-table cash, which also saved the seller from paying a chunk of taxes.

Mr Lanciana is also alleged to have laundered $18,000 by exchanging stolen $20 bills for clean $50 bills and other denominations at various banks.

His lawyer said whether this was true or not, it didn’t prove anything.

“This trial is not about whether he was involved in some suspect conduct or some criminal conduct,” she said.

“It is squarely about whether he committed this armed robbery on June 22, 1994.”

The trial continues.

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