Trial begins in "postal robbery of the century" case

A Zurich district court Monday began the trial of the eight main defendants in a 1997 multi-million Swiss franc postal robbery case which has been described as the postal robbery of the century.

This content was published on October 15, 1999 - 08:55

A Zurich district court Monday began the trial of the eight main defendants in a 1997 multi-million Swiss franc postal robbery case which has been described as the postal robbery of the century.

Seven defendants stand accused of robbery and another of aiding and abetting the theft of SFr53.1 million ($36.1 million). Only about half of the money stolen has been recovered.

If found guilty, the defendants could face prison terms of up to ten years.

Among the accused is a former employee of Zurich’s Fraumünster post office, who is suspected of having passed on inside information, the owner of a gaming hall where much of the plan was allegedly hatched, and the suspected Lebanese head of the gang.

In a daring heist on September 1, five unmasked robbers drove their delivery van – which looked like a regular postal vehicle -- into the court of the Fraumünster branch in broad daylight.

The robbers, who used both unloaded weapons and toy guns, held four postal workers at bay and stole five money boxes meant to be transported to a nearby Swiss National Bank building. The robbers were forced to leave behind two money boxes because they did not fit into the small getaway vehicle.

The whole operation only lasted a few minutes but was filmed by security cameras.

Although the robbery appeared to have been carefully planned, within a few days, police had arrested just over a dozen suspects involved in the case and retrieved half of the money stolen. Most of those have already been sentenced on money laundering charges and dealing in stolen goods.

From staff and wire reports.

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