Six individuals took a businessman and his family hostage at dawn on Friday at their home in La Chaux-de-Fonds, northwest Switzerland, forcing the man to hand over an unspecified amount of gold. They took the loot and fled across the border to France, where police are still looking for them.
The businessman is a director of Cendror, a local company specialising in precious metals. Intruders threatened his wife and child, forcing him to go and get gold from the company coffers and hand it over to them in another place, as they continued to hold his family. The criminals then left his wife and child near the French border before crossing it.
It was a Cendror employee who alerted Swiss police. They deployed some 70 officers, a helicopter and police dogs in an attempt to catch the criminals, according to Pierre-Louis Rochaix, a spokesman for Neuchâtel cantonal police.
The spokesman said this kind of hostage-taking for loot was extremely rare, but some thieves might see it as a way to get around ever tighter security at companies.
Cendror was also a target in 2011, when at least four individuals held up 11 company employees, forcing them to open the coffers. The thieves got away with loot worth some CHF5.4 million ($5.6 million), including bars of gold, silver and platinum. Some of the culprits were identified or arrested and one was tried in France.