In a repeat performance of last month's spectacular "sewer rat" robbery at Nice on the French Riviera, thieves borrowed through sewage tunnels into the vaults of a Paris bank during the weekend.
SV PAN River Seine
SV Detectives and police outside bank
SVs Workmen down manhole as people watch (4 shots)
SV Protective top put around manhole and removed as workmen climb out of hole (2 shots)
SV EXTERIOR Societe Generale bank with gandarmes outside
According to the British Broadcasting Corporation's reporter in Paris, Philip Hayton, the exact value of the cash and valuables that have been stolen may never be known. Mr. Hayton said it was discovered after the Nice robbery that many customers did not reveal the full extent of their losses because undeclared savings in banks and other institutions are regarded as a legitimate means of tax evasion by many Frenchmen.
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Background: In a repeat performance of last month's spectacular "sewer rat" robbery at Nice on the French Riviera, thieves borrowed through sewage tunnels into the vaults of a Paris bank during the weekend. Working with cool efficiency over the three day assumption Bank holiday, the gang emptied 191 safe deposit boxes in what could be the world's biggest bank robbery. The exact size of the Paris haul was not immediately known but investigators said it could surpass the estimated 50 million francs (5.7 million pounds sterling) taken by the gang which dug into the branch of the state run Society Generale bank in Nice in mid July.
SYNOPSIS: The Ile Saint Louis branch, which was robbed, is on a fashionable island in the River Seine where many top French show business personalities and politicians live. The break-in was discovered at opening time on Tuesday, the end of the Bank holiday.
Like the robbers in Nice, who have not yet been caught, the Paris thieves used mechanical equipment and breathing apparatus to bore a tunnel from the city's sewer system into the bank's concrete basement. The identical methods used in the two robberies prompted police speculation that the same professional team may have struck again. Police said that in the tunnel they found three rubber sleeping mattresses, cartons of fruit and a vacuum cleaner to clear the rubble.
Bank officials claimed in a statement that the robbers cold have been caught but for a human failure. One of the bank's roving security guards heard noises in the basement when passing the bank on Saturday afternoon. He informed bank officials and somebody was sent round, but he mistook the noise in the basement for a ventilation system on the side of the building. The bank has issued a statement assuring customers they will be compensated for their losses.