‘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.


‘New beginning’: Khan brings hope of stronger ties with India

Updated 18 August 2018
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‘New beginning’: Khan brings hope of stronger ties with India

  • Cautious optimism in India as Imran Khan becomes PM in Pakistan
  • Indian experts say stable government in Pakistan will determine the course of India-Pakistan relations

NEW DELHI: Indian foreign policy experts have expressed cautious optimism about an improvement in the country’s relationship with Pakistan following Imran Khan’s rise to power.

Former India ambassador to Pakistan TCA Raghavan said that if Pakistan’s new prime minister was able to provide stable government internally and address the nation’s numerous domestic issues, it “will create the basis for better relations with India.”

Raghavan, author of “The People Next Door: The Curious History of India-Pakistan Relations,” said: “It’s difficult to make predictions about India-Pakistan relations at any time. But in my view the internal situation in Pakistan has a great role to play in determining the course of the relationship.”

Sudheendra Kulkarni, a peace activist and adviser to the former prime minister Atal Behari Vajppayee, described Khan’s leadership as a “new beginning for Pakistan and the Indian subcontinent.”

“The past four years have been a wasted opportunity in taking the India-Pakistan relationship forward,” he said. “Nawaz Sharif was a leader with a thorough commitment to a better relationship with New Delhi, but the Narendra Modi regime could not sustain the initial hopes when it invited the leader of the Islamic republic to a swearing in ceremony in 2014.”

However, Kulkarni cautioned that “we should not expect marked improvement in relations in the next eight to nine months as India is going to have elections early next year.”

Professor Happymon Jacob, of the Center for International Politics, Organization and Disarmament at New Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University, said: “I am positive about Imran Khan. If the Pakistan army and the political establishment are on board, and there is no difference between the two elites, then it becomes easier for India to navigate.

“Under Nawaz Sharif, both the elites were not on the same page regarding India. The present regime in Delhi will not reach out to Pakistan when elections in India are around the corner. If anything wrong goes so far as peace process is concerned, then it will have electoral ramifications. Any revival of peace talks will happen only after the elections.”

India’s leadership reached out to Khan after his election victory with the Ministry of External Affairs saying: “Prime Minister Narendra Modi expresses hope that democracy will take deeper roots in Pakistan and reiterates his vision of peace and development in the entire neighborhood.”

In his victory speech, Khan also said that “Pakistan is ready to improve its ties with India.”

He said that his government hoped the leaders of the two nations can resolve all disputes, including the core issue of Kashmir, through talks.

“If they take one step toward us, we will take two,” he said.

Meanwhile, India cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu, a guest at Khan’s swearing in on Saturday, has called for peace on the subcontinent.

“It’s in the interest of both countries that peace prevails. I have come to Pakistan despite all the criticism back home with a message of peace and friendship. We have the same culture, the same way of thinking and, therefore, it is important that we should have a strong bond.”