Page last updated at 18:44 GMT, Sunday, 28 March 2010 19:44 UK

Switzerland casino is robbed by armed gang

Casino managing director Michael Favrod inspects the doors of Grand Casino Basel after the robbery, 28 March
Managing director Michael Favrod said it was the first robbery at the casino

Masked men have stormed a packed casino near the Swiss border city of Basle, making off with hundreds of thousands of francs, prosecutors say.

About 10 raiders pulled up at the Grand Casino in two cars just after 0400 (0200 GMT) and smashed their way in, brandishing machine-guns and pistols.

The French-speaking gang ordered the 600 guests and employees to the floor while they emptied registers.

The Grand Casino describes itself as the "Swiss Las Vegas" on its website.

Reports say they could not get into the strong room despite firing on the door.

Nobody was seriously injured in the robbery.

The gang escaped in their cars, described as silver Audis with French licence plates, in the direction of France. Basle lies on the Swiss border, with French territory just 200m from the casino.

Sunday's robbery has echoes of a raid on 6 March on a poker tournament at a hotel in central Berlin in which attackers armed with a pistol and a machete made off with 240,000 euros (£210,000) in jackpot money.

German authorities say they have arrested five suspects over that raid.

'Hit and kicked'

The prosecutor's office in Basle said in a statement that, although several shots had been fired by the robbers, no-one was injured by them.

"However, several guests and a member of the security staff were slightly hurt after being hit and kicked by the offenders," it added.

When the gang pulled up at the casino, one smashed the door with a sledgehammer and others ran in carrying machine-guns and pistols.

A view of the Grand Casino Basle after the robbery, 28 March
The raiders are said to have escaped into France

After the robbery, they fled at high speed in their cars across the border along the Flughafenstrasse (airport road), the prosecutors said.

"How the offenders managed to leave Flughafenstrasse, which is in French territory, is a matter of investigations, which are being undertaken together with French authorities," they added.

"The hunt for the perpetrators has so far been unsuccessful."

Police were quoted as saying by the Associated Press news agency that a woman who accidentally drove between the two getaway cars, blocking the casino's exit, was pulled from her vehicle and beaten.

It was possible, they said, that the men fired a shot at another car during their escape.

Located three minutes from the EuroAirport Basle and five minutes from Basel city centre, the casino boasts more than 357 slot machines, 15 gambling tables, four bars and two restaurants.

Managing director Michael Favrod said it was the first robbery at the casino.

"One can practise such a situation but when such a situation comes true it's always different," he said.

"Fortunately, nobody has been hurt."

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