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Robbers caught counting €40-million booty after Swiss motorway heist
French police have caught a gang of robbers as they counted their booty, following a dramatic hold-up of an armoured van carrying 40 million euros-worth of cash and gems on a Swiss motorway.
An anti-gang squad from the central French city of Lyon caught the robbers just four hours after the heist.
Following a high-speed car chase through country roads, and having lost trace of them at one point, they tracked them down in a house in Chavanod, not far from the Swiss border, grabbing two as they loaded sacks into a white van and five as they counted the cash in a small room inside.
The total haul - of cash, gold ingots, diamonds and other gems - was worth 37-41 million euros.
Hold-up on motorway
The thieves had seized the haul at 3.15am on Switzerland's A1 motorway.
Arriving in cars with flashing lights, dressed in black and wearing police armbands, they stopped the Loomis van, brandished assault rifles and slapped explosives onto the windscreen, thus persuading the guards to get out.Having emptied the van, they set it on fire.
The whole operation took just four minutes.
The guards, who were not physically harmed, contacted the police after the robbers had made their getaway.
Police had been tailing gang
But, unbeknown to the gangsters, the police had been watching them for several months, Le Monde newspaper reports.
Their suspicions were aroused by a known criminal, who managed to drive around Lyon in expensive cars despite having no known source of income.
Several other repeat offenders were among his acquaintances and they were in the habit of going for long drives in the middle of the night for no apparent reason, with a preference for the Swiss border in the weeks leading up to the robbery.
They also discovered that the gang were keeping two fast cars in a garage near Annecy.
The surveillance, which lasted nearly a year, finally paid off this week.
As well as the booty, the police seized assault rifles, revolvers, two stolen cars, a wave jammer, body armour and fake number plates.
Seven men, some with long criminal records, are now awaiting trial in Lyon.