‘Millions’ robbed in French cash van kidnap and heist

The robbery began in the evening in the southeastern French city of Lyon, where two men pretending to be plumbers kidnapped a young woman from her apartment. (Shutterstock)
Updated 09 February 2018
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‘Millions’ robbed in French cash van kidnap and heist

LYON: Robbers posing as plumbers kidnapped the daughter of a cash van driver and demanded the vehicle’s contents as ransom in a heist that could have netted them over 20 million euros, investigators said Friday.
The hold-up, which resembles the plot of a Hollywood action movie, took place Thursday near the French-Swiss border.
It began in the evening in the southeastern French city of Lyon, where two men pretending to be plumbers kidnapped a young woman from her apartment, a source close to the investigation told AFP.
They bundled her into a car and then had accomplices ring her father, who works for a Swiss company that transports money between companies and banks, to demand a ransom.
The father, who lives in the French border town of Annemasse, was carrying out a cash delivery when the call came through, Europe 1 radio reported.
He agreed to meet the kidnappers in a car park just across the border on the Swiss side, to hand over the van’s contents, investigators said.
Police in the Swiss canton of Vaud said that the father was en route to the Swiss city of Lausanne when he was forced to exit the motorway and head for the car park where he was met by robbers wearing gloves and balaclavas.
“There, several armed men who were awaiting the van made him park it. They then held up the delivery drivers, completely emptied the van’s contents and fled in a dark-colored Porsche SUV,” the Swiss police said in a statement Friday.
A French police source told AFP that the van was carrying “between 20 and 30 million Swiss francs ($21-32 million).”
A spokesman for the police in Vaud refused to confirm the amount.
The driver’s daughter, who is in her twenties, was found unharmed at around 10 p.m. (2100 GMT) on a road on the outskirts of Lyon.
She was questioned by police on Friday and said to be still in a state of shock.
“We have no reason to question her story,” a French source with knowledge of the investigation said, adding that police suspected a criminal gang.
No arrests have been made yet in the probe, which is being led by French police.
Swiss police said they were looking for three men with accented French, “maybe from the south of France or North Africa” and called on any witnesses to come forward.
“Many details remain unexplained,” the French source said, adding that the investigation was expected to take some time.


Nigeria’s candidates blame each other in surprise vote delay

Nigeria's main opposition party presidential candidate Atiku Abubakar speaks to reporters, after the postponement of the presidential election in Yola, in Adamawa State, Nigeria February 16, 2019. (REUTERS)
Updated 44 min 21 sec ago
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Nigeria’s candidates blame each other in surprise vote delay

  • The party backing top opposition challenger Atiku Abubakar accused President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration of “instigating this postponement” with the aim of ensuring a low turnout

KANO, Nigeria: Nigeria’s top candidates on Saturday condemned the surprise last-minute decision to delay the presidential election for a week until Feb. 23, blaming each other but appealing to Africa’s largest democracy for calm.
The decision, announced five hours before polls were to open, is a costly one, with analysts at SBM Intelligence estimating an economic hit of $2 billion, plus a blow to the country’s reputation. Authorities now must decide what to do with already delivered voting materials in a tense atmosphere where some electoral facilities in recent days have been torched.
Electoral commission chairman Mahmood Yakubu told observers, diplomats and others that the delay had nothing to do with insecurity or political influence. He blamed “very trying circumstances” including bad weather affecting flights and the fires at three commission offices in an apparent “attempt to sabotage our preparations.”
If the vote had continued as planned, polling units could not have opened at the same time nationwide. “This is very important to public perceptions of elections as free, fair and credible,” Yakubu said, adding that as late as 2 a.m. they were still confident the election could go ahead.
The new Feb. 23 election date is “without equivocation” final, he said.
Bitter voters in the capital, Abuja, and elsewhere who traveled home to cast their ballots, including from Nigeria’s vast diaspora, said they could not afford to wait another seven days, and warned that election apathy could follow. Some anguished over rescheduling weddings, exams and other milestones.
If the electoral commission knew about complications, why wait until the final moment to announce a delay, asked Godspower Egbenekama, spokesman for the Gbaramatu kingdom in Delta state in the restive south. “This shows that someone is pulling the strings from somewhere.”
The party backing top opposition challenger Atiku Abubakar accused President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration of “instigating this postponement” with the aim of ensuring a low turnout. It urged Nigerians to turn out in greater numbers a week from now.
“You can postpone an election, but you cannot postpone destiny,” Abubakar tweeted.
Buhari said he was “deeply disappointed” after the electoral commission had “given assurances, day after day and almost hour after hour that they are in complete readiness for the elections.” His statement appealed for calm and asserted that his administration does not interfere in the commission’s work.
A spokesman for the president’s campaign committee, Festus Keyamo, accused Abubakar’s party of causing the delay to try to slow Buhari’s momentum.
But a ruling party campaign director in Delta state, Goodnews Agbi, said it was better to give the commission time to conduct a credible vote instead of rushing into a sham one “that the whole world will criticize later.”
A civic group monitoring the election, the Situation Room, blasted the “needless tension and confusion” and called on political parties to avoid incitement and misinformation.
Nigeria’s more than 190 million people anticipate a close race between Buhari and Abubakar, a billionaire former vice president. Both have pledged to work for a peaceful election even as supporters, including high-level officials, have caused alarm with warnings against foreign interference and allegations of rigging.
When Buhari came to power in 2015 — after a six-week election delay blamed on extremist insecurity — he made Nigerian history with the first defeat of an incumbent president. The vote was hailed as one of the most transparent and untroubled ever in Africa’s most populous country, which has seen deadly post-election violence in the past.
Now Buhari could become the second incumbent to be unseated. This election is a referendum on his record on insecurity, the economy and corruption, all of which he has been criticized by some Nigerians for doing too little too slowly.