* Thieves snatch 100kg of gold worth £3million
* Stolen digger used to smash through depot walls
* Roads blocked with stolen vehicles to foil police response
Police are hunting a gang of thieves who carried out an Italian Job style heist by locking down an entire village to steal more than £3million worth of gold.
The spectacular operation is already being dubbed the crime of the century. Detectives believe the job was organised by the mafia and took months to plan.
In hit crime caper The Italian Job Michael Caine led a gang of British villains in a blitz on a bullion van in Turin escaping with millions in gold bars -only to be left dangling on a cliff edge when their bus skids off a mountain road.
The real life Italian job took place in Poggio Bagnoli, a small village in Tuscany, a short drive from the home of rock star Sting and in the Chianti area which is popular with British holidaymakers.
Using heavy machinery stolen from the local council and road closed signs the gang blocked off all access to the rural hamlet where gold depot SALP is located.
They used a digger to smash down an outside wall and then drove it through another building to reach a safe which was scooped up inside the bucket and then driven away.
Police raced to the scene after alarms were triggered but found all the roads blocked with the machinery – which had all had their tyres slashed taking up valuable time and allowing the gang to get away cross country.
Police say the gang was made up of around ten people and among the stolen vehicles used were a school bus, truck, two council cars and a traffic warden’s car.
Officials say that 100kg of gold was taken – with the current price per kilogram being £28,333 – the value having been pushed up by the crisis in north Africa.
The raid – which happened in the early hours of Tuesday – is said to have taken a little under 30 minutes and today scenes of crimes officers were at the scene looking for clues and fingerprints.
A police spokesman in nearby Arezzo said: ‘The first car was at the village within twelve minutes of getting the call but it found its way blocked by an abandoned heavy vehicle which had its tyres slashed.
‘This meant that time was lost as another route had to be found and this too was blocked – in fact all the roads were blocked with vehicles and had road closed signs as well.
‘The gang were able to use this tactic to escape – although we did recover some items of gold that were dropped at the scene and forensic teams are on site looking for clues.
‘This was a very big job with a lot of intricate planning and we are not talking about a gang of local delinquents – whoever did this would have resources behind them and a lot of authority.’
Today no-one at SALP would comment on the raid but it is not the first time the depot has been targeted – five years ago a gang broke in after lowering themselves in from the roof but they were stopped by police.
By Nick Pisa In Rome
Last updated at 4:28 PM on 9th March 2011
Source: The Daily Mail