Millions stolen in jewel heist

Robbers hijack two armoured vans in France

HEAVILY armed robbers in France pulled off a spectacular ß9- million (R117-million) jewellery heist overnight after holding up two armoured vans at a motorway toll in Burgundy.

A major manhunt was under way yesterday morning to find what police believe to be a gang of about 15 masked individuals in four cars who swooped on the vans on the A6 motorway about 200km southeast of Paris.

Police have installed a security perimeter and helicopter searches are under way.

The armoured vehicles were found in a field near the Avallon motorway toll, south of the town of Auxerre.

The local prosecutor said nobody was hurt in the heist.

The police union’s Christophe Crépin said: “A group of heavily armed and masked men carried out the attack around midnight.”

The robbers then burnt the security vans, he said.

According to L’Yonne, the local newspaper, they made their getaway in the direction of Paris.

France has suffered a spate of high-profile jewellery thefts in recent years by gangs using a range of techniques.

Last month, eight men were handed prison terms from nine months to 15 years for carrying out one of the world’s biggest double jewel heists, disguising themselves first as painters then as female shoppers in order to steal more than ß100- million (R1.3-billion) worth of luxury watches, necklaces and earrings in two daylight raids on a jewellery boutique off the Champs Elysées.

The first raid on the Harry Winston store on Avenue Montaigne happened in October 2007 when four armed men dressed as decorators entered the premises at opening time.

Less than half an hour later, they made off with 360 items of jewellery and 120 watches, with an estimated value of more than ß32- million (R416-million)

A year later, the same store was hit again. Four men – two in wigs dressed as women – in less than 20 minutes stole 297 pieces of jewellery and 104 watches with an estimated value of more than ß71- million (R924-million)

At the time, detectives described the daylight raid as spectacular and the heist of the century. Part of the haul has been recovered.

In July 2013, a lone burglar armed with a handgun managed to break into the Carlton hotel in Cannes during a diamond exhibition, making off with 72 items of jewellery worth ß103- million (R1.34-billion) in one of the world’s biggest ever heists.

In a recent report, the French judicial police said there were five armed attacks on armoured vans in 2013 and six in 2012.

Attacks on armoured vehicles have been less fruitful.

– The Telegraph

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