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First Swiss prison sentence dished out for blowing up ATMs

Person using ATM
The rising number of ATMs being targeted by criminals with explosives has alarmed Swiss police. © Keystone / Gaetan Bally

A man has been jailed for 74 months for blowing up an ATM - the first such sentence handed out in Switzerland amid a growing trend of cash machine robberies.

The 31-year-old Romanian was extradited from Austria to Switzerland after police found his DNA at the scene of the 2019 crime in the eastern canton of St Gallen.

The robbers took CHF126,600 ($134,000) in cash and caused CHF100,000 in damage, the Federal Criminal Court heard.

The convicted man, who has has already served 552 days in prison whilst awaiting trial, will be barred from entering Switzerland for 10 years once he has served his sentence.

Growing trend

Federal police have sounded the alarm at a growing number of foreign criminal gangs coming into Switzerland to explode ATMs.

Police figures show that four ATMs were broken open with explosives or gas in 2018. This figure rose to 22 confirmed attacks each year in 2019 and 2020External link. Swiss public television RTS says 24 ATMs have been blownExternal link up so far this year.

The latest attack was on an ATM at a motorway service station in canton Zurich on Wednesday.

Not only are the number of attacks increasing, but police are concerned that the nature of the robberies presents a risk of injury.

“In 2019, we saw a spate of gas explosions linked to gangs in France. Since 2020, criminals have come mainly from eastern Europe using homemade explosives,” a Federal Police spokesperson told RTS on Thursday.

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SWI swissinfo.ch - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR