Casino robbers 'spoke in Maltese'

Casino robbers 'spoke in Maltese'

Investigators suspect that the men who raided the Casino di Venezia in Vittoriosa on Wednesday were Maltese and may be linked to the attempted hold-up on a security van in Sta Venera on January 4.

Sources said yesterday that according to casino employees and patrons, the four armed and hooded men who stormed the establishment spoke in Maltese and did not have a foreign accent.

The heist involved at least six men, four of whom entered the casino, while a fifth waited for them in a green Mitsubishi Pajero which had been stolen earlier in the week. The vehicle drove to the far end of the waterfront, where a sixth was waiting in a small white boat that was used to flee from the quay. The Pajero was dumped in the sea and was recovered by the police the following morning.

The hold-up, captured on closed-circuit television cameras inside and outside the casino and along the waterfront, lasted about three minutes.

In a brief statement yesterday afternoon, the third related to the robbery, the police only said several people had been held and questioned but they would not give any other details on the suspects.

However, the sources said they were arrested shortly after the heist even if they could have only been indirectly involved in the theft.

Among those questioned was the security guard on duty at the entrance to the waterfront that evening. It is usually the practice for these personnel to ask those driving onto the quay for their details.

Investigators are examining a wig and a scarf found inside the Pajero.

The clothing probably belonged to the thieves because the vehicle's owners told the police the items did not belong to them, the sources said.

An army spokesman said the boat used in the getaway had not yet been found.

A police spokesman said investigations were still under way and that, at this stage, no one was expected to be arraigned.

The police have still not divulged the exact amount stolen, which has been revised several times since the hold-up. The figure is believed to be close to €500,000.

On January 4, three vans, a pickup truck, a motorcycle and a bulldozer blocked the path of security van carrying about €2.8 million in Qormi Road, Sta Venera.

The bulldozer was used to ram the back doors of the van but the robbery went wrong when the doors would not buckle and shots that were fired failed to shatter the bulletproof glass. This forced the thieves to abandon the robbery and escape in a white van that was then set alight at the Mrieħel industrial estate.

As with the recent heist, that attempted hold-up was bold and carefully planned. Another getaway vehicle was waiting at the industrial estate and diesel had been poured on the road to prevent anyone from following.

Since then, gunshot residue tests have been carried out on several suspects with criminal records and the police are awaiting the results.

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