February 9, 2018

‘Millions’ robbed in French cash van kidnap and heist



Robbers posing as plumbers kidnapped the daughter of a cash van driver and demanded the vehicle’s contents as ransom in a heist that could have netted them over 20 million euros, investigators said Friday.

The hold-up, resembling the plot of a Hollywood action movie, took place Thursday night near the French-Swiss border.

It began in the early evening in the southeastern French city of Lyon, where two men pretending to be plumbers kidnapped the 22-year-old woman from her apartment, a source close to the investigation disclosed.

The victim told investigators she was bundled into a car and tied up.

She was then forced to telephone her father who works for SOS Surveillance, a Swiss company that transports money between companies and banks in armoured vehicles, to demand a ransom.

The father, who lives in the French border town of Annemasse, was carrying out a cash delivery with a colleague when the call came through, police sources said.

He agreed to meet the kidnappers in a car park just across the border on the Swiss side, to hand over the van’s contents, investigators said.

Swiss police said the father was en route to the city of Lausanne when he was forced to exit the motorway and head for the car park, where he was met by black-clad robbers wearing gloves and balaclavas.

– Daughter found by roadside –
“There, several armed men who were awaiting the van made him park it. They then held up the delivery drivers, completely emptied the van’s contents and fled in a dark-coloured Porsche SUV,” Swiss police said in a statement Friday.

A French police source said the van was carrying “between 20 and 30 million Swiss francs (17-26 million euros, $21-32 million)”, but a spokesman for Swiss police in Vaud refused to confirm the amount.

The driver’s daughter was found unharmed at around 10 pm (2100 GMT) on a road on the outskirts of Lyon.

She was questioned by police on Friday and said to be still in a state of shock.

“We have no reason to question her story,” a French source with knowledge of the investigation said, adding that police suspected a criminal gang.

No arrests have been made yet in the probe, which is being led by French police, while Swiss police have launched an appeal for witnesses to come forward.

Swiss police said they were looking for three men with accented French, “maybe from the south of France or North Africa”, and called on any witnesses to come forward.

“Many details remain unexplained,” the French source said, adding that the investigation was expected to take some time.