23 February 2006

Armed robbers steal $A59.2m in UK raid


Date: 23/02/06
By Andrew Gray

An armed gang posing as police has stolen at least 25 million pounds ($A59.23 million) of Bank of England money in one of Britain's biggest robberies.

Robbers kidnapped the manager of a security depot in Kent, southeast England, and his family before escaping with their haul, police said.

The thieves may have got away with more than 40 million pounds ($A94.78 million) from the depot run by private security firm Securitas, according to one report on ITV television news.

The Bank of England, Britain's central bank, said Securitas had already reimbursed it to the tune of 25 million pounds ($A59.23 million), the initial estimate of bank funds stolen.

"Any further sums will be reimbursed to the bank as soon as they are known," the bank said in a statement, adding bank Governor Mervyn King had ordered a review of security arrangements for storing banknotes.

Officials said there was still some confusion over the exact amount of money stolen.

It was not yet clear whether other cash as well as the Bank of England funds had been taken.

If confirmed, the 40 million pounds ($A94.78 million) figure would make the raid the biggest in British history.

In December 2004, a gang stole 26.5 million pounds ($A62.79 million) from the Northern Bank in the Belfast, Northern Ireland, in a raid police and politicians have blamed on Irish republican guerrillas.

In 1983, thieves escaped with 26 million pounds ($A61.6 million) in gold and diamonds from a security vault at London's Heathrow Airport.

The latest robbery had clearly been planned in detail over some time, police said.

"Someone must have information that will help us in the hunt for the robbers," Superintendent Paul Gladstone said.

"We are determined to bring the robbers to justice," he said in a statement issued by police in the county of Kent.

The manager of the depot was stopped by men posing as police officers as he drove home from work on Tuesday evening, police said. He was handcuffed and held captive by the men.

At about the same time, his wife and young son were taken from their home by two men posing as police.

The robbers threatened the manager at gunpoint and said his family would be at risk if he did not cooperate with them.

At about 1am, the robbers took the manager to the depot. At least six men, some of them armed, tied up the staff on duty at the premises and then loaded the money into a lorry.

They left at about 2.15am.

No one was hurt in the robbery, police said.

No one at the English office of Sweden's Securitas AB, the world's biggest security firm, could be reached for comment.

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