Brits held in Morocco over cash heist
Posted Mon, 26 Jun 2006
Four Britons were arrested here on Sunday in connection with the February theft of more than $90-million from a cash depot, considered Britain's biggest ever bank robbery, police said.
The "dangerous" suspects were captured inside the Mega Mall shopping centre in the posh Souissi district of the Moroccan capital in an operation involving some 30 police officers and Scotland Yard, a police statement said.
They are suspected of involvement in the armed hold-up of a cash depot in the English county of Kent on February 22 in which Â£53-million ($95.4-million, â‚¬76.3-million) were stolen.
"This theft is considered one of the most important thefts in the annals of international criminality," the Moroccan police said in a statement, adding that local police had been tracking the suspects for four months.
"Due to the danger posed by the suspects, specialists in martial arts and firearms, Moroccan police had to use special techniques to neutralise them without posing a risk to citizens nearby at the time of the arrest."
After the arrest, police searched the Rabat residence of the four men, whose identities were not revealed. The men were wanted by Interpol, and Scotland Yard was involved in their capture, Moroccan police sources said.
British police said in April that they had charged six people including one woman over the robbery on the Securitas depot in Tonbridge, Kent. More than 20 people have been arrested as part of the investigation.
Only some Â£20-million of the stolen money has been recovered, according to British police.
Car dealer John Fowler (60) has been charged with conspiracy to rob, three counts of kidnapping the depot manager and his family, and handling stolen goods.
Car salesman Stuart Royle (47) unemployed Jetmir Bucpapa (24) and 33-year-old roofer Lea Rusha, have been charged with conspiracy to rob.
Ermir Hysenaj (27) was charged with conspiracy to commit robbery, while hairdresser Kim Shackleton (38) was charged with handling stolen goods.
The gang's loot of Â£53 116 760 was more than double the previous record amount stolen in a British cash robbery â€” the December 2004 heist at the Northern Bank headquarters in Belfast which netted Â£26.5-million.
The hold-up also dwarfed other notorious raids like the 1963 'Great Train Robbery' by Ronnie Biggs, who made off with some Â£2.6-million or the equivalent of Â£33.45-million in today's money.
During February's raid Securitas depot manager Colin Dixon (51) and his wife Lynn (45) and son Craig, were abducted separately and 15 depot staff held at gunpoint.
Dixon was pulled over while driving home by what he believed was an unmarked police car, containing a man in a high-visibility jacket and police-style hat.
Believing they were genuine police officers, he got into their car, only to be handcuffed, threatened at gunpoint and told to cooperate lest his family be hurt.
Two other robbers disguised as police meanwhile abducted his wife and son from their home, telling them that Dixon had been involved in an accident.
Six men, some armed with handguns, then threatened and tied up about 15 staff at the Securitas depot, and loaded their loot into a van before fleeing.
Investigators have been working with international financial institutions to track the missing cash, some of which police say is traceable.