Motorway bandits grab 70kg of gold

Forensics officers and firefighters at work at the scene of Monday's armed heist, which targeted a van transporting powdered gold. Motorway hijackings are on the rise in France in recent years.
Forensics officers and firefighters at work at the scene of Monday's armed heist, which targeted a van transporting powdered gold. Motorway hijackings are on the rise in France in recent years.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

LYON (France) • An armed gang has held up a van transporting 70kg of powdered gold in a dramatic heist near the French city of Lyon.

Four robbers used two cars to block the van at an exit from the A6 motorway leading to an industrial estate north of Lyon on Monday, police said.

Armed with assault rifles, the assailants then grabbed the sacks of gold, loaded them into a getaway car, set fire to the other vehicle and sped off.

The police at first said the robbers trapped the two guards transporting the gold in the back of their van, but later revised that account, saying they were not locked up.

The fire gutted the abandoned car and three nearby vehicles, but the guards escaped unharmed.

Transport company Loomis said the van was carrying "industrial raw materials".

The value of the haul was estimated at €2.5 million (S$3.8 million).

France has experienced a growing number of motorway hijackings in recent years. In March last year, a group of around 15 robbers held up two vans carrying jewellery worth around €9 million at a toll booth on the A6, near the central city of Auxerre.

More recently, two Qatari women were held up in their chauffeur-driven Bentley after leaving Le Bourget Airport, north of Paris, last month.

Masked robbers made off with more than €5 million in jewels and other valuables.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 14, 2016, with the headline 'Motorway bandits grab 70kg of gold'. Print Edition | Subscribe