Casino gang targets Swiss high rollers

Armed gang fire shots into chandeliers during attack on the 'Las Vegas of Europe'
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The Independent Online

A masked gang armed with machine guns and pistols staged a spectacular robbery at a Swiss casino dubbed "Las Vegas in Europe" earlyyesterday and escaped with hundreds of thousands of euros after terrifying gamblers by firing shots into the chandeliers.

The raiders struck at 4am while some 600 gamblers and staff were busy around the 15 gaming tables and 357 slot machines inside Basel's Grand Casino hotel a mile from the city's airport

Ten masked men burst into the red-lit futuristic casino building after smashing down the entrance door with a sledgehammer. They immediately started firing rounds at the chandeliers in the building's main foyer. Several guests and staff were hurled to the floor.

"It was like something out of an action film, and very frightening," said a casino spokesman. "We are all very shocked."

Terrified gamblers and staff obeyed orders to lie on the floor, while the gunmen filled holdalls with the the cash contents of various tills in the casino's basement and ground floor.

The gang attempted to shoot open the locks on steel gates barring their way to the casino's main safe. "There was lots of shooting, but they couldn't open them," one witness said.

The gunmen ran with their takings to two grey Audi saloon getaway cars and sped away. Police said that a woman casino guest was pulled out of her car and beaten up by the gunmen after she attempted to block their path by parking across the exit road before they escaped. Police said nobody was shot.

Witnesses said they fled in the direction of France and that their cars had French number plates. French and Swiss police were said to have set up a joint investigation unit.

Basel's Grand Casino describes itself as "Las Vegas in the centre of Europe" and attracts high-rollers from across the continent. Many guests stay in the casino's hotel which forms part of the complex. The casino which is situated virtually on the Swiss and French borders is no longer protected by border guards because Switzerland recently joined the Schengen visa-free area in Europe. Police said the gangsters made off with several hundred thousand Swiss francs (100,000 Swiss francs are worth about £68,000).

The heist followed an equally spectacular robbery at an international poker tournament in Berlin in early March. Four masked men stormed the luxury Grand Hyatt hotel in the city centre and threatened players and staff with pistols and a machete and escaped with €242,000 (£218,000).

Four suspects were arrested or surrendered to police several days after the poker robbery. But the haul has reportedly not been found.

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