Casino heist haul put at €500,000
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Casino heist haul put at €500,000

Helicopter not equipped with night-time search facility

A Mitsubishi Pajero used during the Casino di Venezia hold-up is lifted out of the sea, where it was dumped before the robbers boarded a small boat and escaped. Photo: Darrin Zammit Lupi.

A Mitsubishi Pajero used during the Casino di Venezia hold-up is lifted out of the sea, where it was dumped before the robbers boarded a small boat and escaped. Photo: Darrin Zammit Lupi.

It is not yet known exactly how much money was stolen from the Casino di Venezia in Vittoriosa on Wednesday night but the latest figure was put at €500,000 yesterday.

Although the actual amount is not likely to be divulged, at least officially, sources said the heist was initially believed to have netted about €100,000 but the sum was later revised upwards to €500,000 by casino officials.

The cash was stolen when four armed and hooded men stormed the casino and threatened staff members and patrons, ordering them to drop to the ground.

The thieves then ran to the place where cash and casino playing chips are exchanged and one of the men leapt over a thick pane of glass. He filled a bag with cash and flung it to the other robbers before leaping back over the glass.

The four robbers ran outside, where a fifth was waiting in a white Mitsubishi Pajero. They drove to the far end of the Vittoriosa Waterfront and dumped the car into the sea before boarding a boat.

The vehicle was reported stolen earlier this week.

The sources said the hold-up, which was captured on close circuit television cameras inside and outside the casino, lasted about three minutes.

Two anglers told investigators they saw the five men dump the vehicle into the sea and board a small boat, where a sixth man was waiting.

The police were also informed that a similar craft was seen sailing out of the port at a high speed sometime later. This led to an intensive air, land and sea search along the coast involving a helicopter, police cars and a patrol boat. Roadblocks were also mounted in several localities.

Alas, the helicopter was not equipped with night-time search facilities and an army spokesman insisted he could not disclose operational information when asked about the matter.

The Pajero was lifted from the sea yesterday morning and, although it was initially thought to be white, the vehicle turned out to be green.

It is being examined by the police for any possible evidence.

A casino spokesman said business resumed as normal yesterday.

Police Inspectors Keith Arnaud and Joseph Mercieca from the Criminal Investigation Department together with district Police Inspector Fabian Fleri are investigating.

Magistrate Silvio Meli has launched an inquiry.

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