Court hands down prison sentences in "robbery of the century" case

A Zurich district court Wednesday handed down prison sentences of up to 5 ½ years in the "postal robbery of the century" trial.

This content was published on November 3, 1999 - 05:31

A Zurich district court Wednesday handed down prison sentences of up to 5 ½ years in the "postal robbery of the century" trial.

The court found all eight defendants in the case guilty for their role in the 1997 robbery, in which SFr53 million (then $37 million) was stolen

The seven who were jailed -- for terms ranging from 21 months to 5 ½ years -- were accused of complicity in what was one of the world's biggest robberies.

The eighth - a 22-year-old Yugoslav -- was charged with aiding and abetting the robbery, and damage to property. He was sent to a special correctional institution.

The trial took place last month under heavy security. Three of the jailed men were from Italy, three were Lebanese and one was Swiss. The heaviest sentence was handed out to a former post office employee who planned the September 1 1997 holdup.

The five robbers posed as postal workers, using false identification papers and a delivery van with stolen post office license plates to pass a security gate at the Fraumünster post office.

They held postal workers at bay with guns and stuffed the van with containers of cash from a loading dock, then drove off -- leaving SFr17 million (about $12 million) behind because they ran out of space. A little less than half of the money has since been recovered.

The two jailed defendants who did not take part in the robbery were found guilty of helping to plan it.

A total of 19 people in five countries were arrested in connection with the case. Two of the alleged ringleaders were extradited from the United States and Spain earlier this year.

Prosecutors had sought jail sentences of between five and eight years. Time already spent in custody will be deducted from the prison terms.

From staff and wire reports.

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