Italian robbers bank a bagful of euros

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Evading all security intended to thwart an unauthorised launch, a gang of thieves has broken into a bank next to La Scala, the opera house on a sumptuous Milan piazza, and made off with a bagful of the sought-after notes.

Some Italians, evidently, just cannot contain their excitement over the imminent arrival of the euro.

Evading all security intended to thwart an unauthorised launch, a gang of thieves has broken into a bank next to La Scala, the opera house on a sumptuous Milan piazza, and made off with a bagful of the sought-after notes.

Officials of the Cariplo bank discovered, when they returned to work yesterday, that about one million euros and a quantity of jewellery had gone missing from the vaults while staff were celebrating Christmas. The thieves used a blowtorch to cut the bank's steel door and blasted their way through walls.

As trifling as a million euros may seem in the ocean of new currency that is about to inundate much of Europe, the Christmas theft might have grave implications in the coming weeks. The participating central banks had been carefully hiding their precious new notes from the consumers.

Come next Tuesday, the punters will just have to accept any bill bearing the "euro" logo, because they are in no position to judge its authenticity.

The forgers, alas, now have a head start, thanks to their criminal Italian colleagues. And their product could possibly reach the market first.

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