While not nearly as brazen as the recent theft of a bucket full of $1.6 million in gold from an armored truck in midtown Manhattan, French police said they are hunting for four men suspected of stealing 70 kilograms of gold worth an estimated €1.5 million from an armored truck Monday before setting cars ablaze near a major highway and fleeing.
Seemingly inspired by a combination of The Usual Suspects and The Italian Job, the robbers, operating in multiple cars, surrounded the armored truck and forced it off the A6 highway between Paris and Lyon, a national gendarme service spokesman and a judicial official said, cited by ABC. They then seized the gold, locked the two delivery men in the back of the truck, and set one of their own cars on fire before fleeing, according to the spokesman.
Tthe flames then spread to three cars nearby and were threatening to engulf the armored truck as well, but local police intervened thanks to a tipoff from a witness and rescued the two men in time. The other cars were unoccupied, the judicial official said.
Police vehicles and a helicopter searched the surrounding fields and forests Monday near the town of southeastern town of Dardilly, the spokesman said. The spokesman and judicial official spoke on condition of anonymity to be able to give details about an ongoing investigation. Scientific police studied the charred hulls of the cars and the empty truck, operated by security company Loomis.
While France occasionally sees big jewel thefts and has seen a couple of high-profile highway heists, it’s rare to see a large-scale gold robbery like this, gendarmes said.
The judicial official said about 70 kilograms of gold dust were stolen worth an estimated 1.5 million euros ($1.6 million). He said it appeared to be an organized crime gang, but said the identities of the attackers are unclear. He would not release details about who owned the gold dust or where it had been headed.
As AFP adds, France has experienced a growing number of motorway hijackings in recent years. In March 2015, a group of around 15 robbers held up two vans carrying jewellery worth around nine million euros (US$9.5 million) at a toll booth on the A6, near the central city of Auxerre.
More recently, two Qatari women were held in their chauffeur-driven Bentley after leaving Le Bourget airport north of Paris in November. The masked robbers made off with valuables worth more than five million euros in jewels and other valuables.
* * *