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Thursday, 22 November, 2001, 20:51 GMT
Armed robbers in euro heist
Euro notes
Italy's first major euro robbery raises fears of forgery
By the BBC's David Willey in Rome

Armed robbers have escaped with 260,000 euros ($250,000) of new euro banknotes in a bank robbery in a Rome suburb.

Security van carrying euros in Germany
The euro roll-out is a high-security operation
It was the first major theft of the new currency which does not become legal tender in Europe until January next year.

Three robbers armed with pistols and disguised with women's wigs entered the bank when it opened and forced five employees into the bathroom where they were bound and gagged.

Two of the thieves ambushed the manager when he arrived and forced him to open the safe.

The robbers escaped with 260,000 euros in new banknotes and a smaller amount in Italian lire.

Draconian security

Police said closed circuit TV cameras which should have recorded the robbery were not working properly.

The Italian authorities, in common with all other EU members going over to the new currency next year, have taken draconian security precautions to ensure the safe transport of millions of new banknotes and coins to banks and large businesses.

This first successful robbery of euro notes is worrying as police fear it will enable counterfeiters to study the new euros with a view to reproducing them.

Italian police say they expect forgers to be ready for the currency changeover with false banknotes which may prove difficult to detect for first time euro users.

See also:

06 Sep 01 | Europe
Robbers say no to euros
07 Sep 01 | Europe
Thieves stage first euro robbery
05 Sep 01 | Business
Euro forgery fears
13 Apr 01 | Europe
The euro non-revolution
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