France jewel heist: 15 armed men hijack vans and steal gems worth £6.4m

Vans were found burned in a forest near the site of the attack

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The Independent Online

An armed and masked gang of 15 pulled off a spectacular jewel robbery at a motorway toll station 120 miles south of Paris last night.

The raiders hijacked two armoured security vans at gunpoint and escaped with an estimated £6.4m in jewels, diamonds and art works.

The security vans were later found abandoned and burned in woodland near the scene of the robbery on the main A6 north-south motorway in northern Burgundy.

The robbery is the latest in a series of large jewel raids and attacks on security vans in France in recent years.

Eight people were convicted last month of taking part in the £49m raid on the Harry Winston jewelry shop in Paris in 2008.

No one was injured in last night’s raid, which took place just before midnight. The security vans were intercepted as they slowed to pay tolls near Avallon. They were travelling south from Paris to Besancon on the French-Swiss border.

Hundreds of police and gendarmerie officers were drafted into the area today to try to pick up the raiders’ trail. Police helicopters were criss-crossing the heavily wooded area near the Chablis vineyards..

Police said that the 15 raiders, who were heavily armed and wearing hoods or balaclavas, escaped in four high-powered cars. There have been half a dozen highly-organised attacks on security vans in France in each of the last three years.