In Brief

Tirana airport heist: armed gang steals up to £8.5m from Austrian Airlines plane

One robber killed in shoot-out with Albanian police as raiders flee in van

An armed gang have stolen millions of euros from a passenger jet preparing for take-off in Albania, in a deadly heist in which one of the robbers was shot dead by police. 

Local media reported that four armed men “posing as tax investigators” pulled up in a van on the tarmac at Tirana International Airport as the money was loaded onto an Austrian Airlines plane for transportation to a bank in Vienna, says Euronews.

The robbers threatened airport staff at gunpoint and “forced their way into the cargo hold”, where they grabbed the bundles of cash, reports the Daily Mail.

But as the gang made their getaway in the van, they were fired upon by police called to the scene. One of the gunmen was killed in the ensuing shoot-out but after throwing his body out of the vehicle, the others got away. 

It is unclear exactly how much the men stole, with estimates ranging from €2.5m (£2m) to as much as €10m (£8.5m).

All of the passengers booked onto the flight were on board during the heist, on Tuesday. An Austrian Airlines spokesperson insisted that there was “never any danger for crew and passengers”.

The flight still went ahead, with the plane landing in Vienna around three hours late.

A burnt-out van believed to be that used by the gang was found during a subsequent search of the surrounding area that involved some 500 police and special forces officers, along with helicopter support.

Aaccording to The Guardian, Albanian police have arrested four people and questioned 40 others over the raid. 

The newspaper explains that foreign banks operating in Albania “send their hard currency to Vienna because Albania’s central bank does not accept such deposits”.

Austrian Airlines has announced that there will be no further cash transfers from Tirana to the Austrian capital.

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