Armed men stage brazen Paris bank raid near Champs-Elysees

French police cordon off the area around the Milleis Banque close to the Champs-Elysees Avenue in central Paris.
French police cordon off the area around the Milleis Banque close to the Champs-Elysees Avenue in central Paris.PHOTO: AFP
French police walk behind a cordoned off area, past the entrance to the Milleis Banque,
French police walk behind a cordoned off area, past the entrance to the Milleis Banque,PHOTOS: AFP

PARIS (AFP) - Armed robbers held up a bank off Paris' famous Champs-Elysees avenue on Tuesday (Jan 22), tying up employees for hours and breaking into safety deposit boxes, police said.

Three to four men rushed into Milleis bank at opening time, tied up employees, and sprayed them with a mysterious liquid before rifling through some 30 safe deposit boxes, a source close to the investigation said on condition of anonymity.

Formerly called Barclays France, the bank boasts high-end clients and its Champs-Elysees branch is only around 650m from the French presidential palace.

The robbers "took a number of hostages amongst employees when the bank opened. They then put up a sign on the door saying the bank was closed," Eddy Sid, a spokesman for the FO police union, told BFM television.

"They then forced open some deposit boxes. Once that was done they left the employees in the bank and they were able to free themselves around lunchtime and call the police," Sid added.

Despite high security in the area, the men made an undetected getaway with their haul from Milleis.

The value of the stolen items was not immediately known.

"We saw nothing, heard nothing. It was when police arrived that we found out what was going on," a nearby shopkeeper, who gave his name as Pierre, told AFP as investigators swarmed the area.

HIGH-END HEISTS

Luxury jewellers are regularly targeted by thieves in Paris, but gangs have also set their sights on super-rich visitors in recent years.

In October 2016, five men tied up and robbed US reality television star Kim Kardashian of jewellery worth €9 million whilst she was staying in a luxury residence hotel in the French capital.

There have also been a string of attacks on vehicles heading to and from Le Bourget airport, which handles private jet departures from Paris.

Among them, two Qatari women in a chauffeur-driven Bentley were robbed of jewels and other items worth more than €5 million (S$7.7 million) in 2016.

In January last year, some four million euros worth of jewels were stolen in a smash-and-grab raid at Paris's Ritz hotel, on Place Vendome - a square celebrated for its jewellers - but police quickly arrested the robbers and recovered the jewels.

Security around Place Vendome was reinforced in 2014 after five high-end jewellery and watch stores were hit by armed robberies in less than seven months. The losses in those attacks ranged from €420,000 to €2 million.

In other attacks, a lone gunman attacked a bank near the Arc de Triomphe monument in February last year, but was shot and arrested by police.

And in 2017, two men held up a luxury watch-makers just off the Champs-Elysees, getting away with items worth several hundred thousand euros.