Two dozen machete-wielding robbers drugged and assaulted factory workers and security guards before carting away US$12.7 million in computer parts in northern Malaysia, police said yesterday.
The heist at a California-based company's warehouse in Penang was described as the country's largest robbery ever by local media.
As many as 24 robbers beat up and drugged 17 workers at the warehouse near Penang's international airport early on Monday before stealing two shipping containers full of microchips and computer components from BAX Global Logistics.
Thirteen of the workers were hospitalized with injuries after the hour-long assault, the national news agency Bernama said.
The robbers forced factory workers and security guards to swallow an unidentified liquid that caused them to throw up, Bernama said.
Two suspects were detained, it said.
A Penang police spokesman, speaking on condition of anonymity citing policy, declined to provide further details saying investigations were ongoing.
BAX Global Logistics is headquartered in Irvine, California.
"I regret that this incident happened as it indirectly affects Penang's image in particular and Malaysia's in general," Penang Chief Minister Koh Tsu Koon was quoted by Bernama as saying.
Freight forwarders also warned yesterday that the heist would damage Malaysia's investment climate.
"It will create a negative image about Malaysia among investors. This is not the first time such a robbery has happened. It has been going on for the past 10 years," Walter Culas, chairman of the Airfreight Forwarders Association, told AFP.
A frustrated Culas said the 50 million ringgit (US$14 million) robbery would not have happened if the cargo complex managed by national carrier Malaysia Airlines had tight security.
"They ignored our warnings. They never implemented a security system," he added.
Penang has achieved the reputation of being Southeast Asia's "Silicon Valley" and is the home of hundreds of IT-related companies including Dell and Intel.