Robbers in the southeastern French city of Lyon have stolen €9m (£8m) in an armed attack on an armoured security vehicle.
It is believed to be the biggest cash heist in France since notorious robber Toni Musulin in 2009 made off with €11.6m, most of which was subsequently recovered.
The vehicle was attacked at around 9am on Friday by several armed individuals as it came out of a branch of the Bank of France in Lyon.
No one was injured in the attack on the vehicle, belonging to the Loomis security company, “but the losses amount to €9m”, prosecutors told AFP.
“The perpetrators managed to immediately flee after committing the act,” the statement added.
Local reports said two vans blocked the armoured vehicle, one in front and one behind.
The robbers threatened the driver, took the money, and fled in two vehicles later found burnt out.
“It was an audacious attack, right in the city centre,” Loomis chief executive Michel Tresch told AFP.
“The most important thing is that the cash escorts are safe and sound,” he added.
The three employees are extremely shocked, Loomis trade unionist Kader Bengueche said, adding they would see a psychologist on Monday.
According to two colleagues of the attacked security team – two men and a woman – there have been repeated problems with the security vehicles’ locking system.
While the security code is supposed to be changed for each run, the attacked vehicle had a “permanent code” which saved time for the robbers, added the colleagues who asked not to be named.
“There is clearly a fault on the part of the company,” one told AFP, stressing that the driver of the attacked vehicle was a former shooting instructor trained in “defensive driving”.
An inquiry was swiftly opened by police and regional specialists.
Cash handling Swedish company Loomis has been attacked several times over the years.
In May 2017, €35m worth of cash, diamonds and gold ingots were stolen from one of its vehicles in Switzerland.
And in December 2016, thieves stole 70kg of gold dust worth €2.5m from the same company near Lyon.
In March this year another notorious French robber, Rédoine Faïd, was sentenced on appeal to 28 years in jail for an explosives attack on a Loomis van in Calais in 2011.
But Tresch told AFP that compared with the 2000s, there are now fewer physical attacks.
“It is a lot easier to carry out attacks [on the internet] via hackers, as opposed to attacking an armoured vehicle,” Tresch said. “It’s not the same exposure.”