Armed gunmen ambushed a Saudi prince’s convoy on the outskirts of Paris on Sunday evening, making off with a large amount of cash and some private documents in what police said looked like a raid by well-informed attackers.
The Saudi convoy of about a dozen cars had been heading for the small Le Bourget airport north of the city along the major A1 highway with the prince, whose name was not revealed.
According to a police official about eight masked attackers with guns, driving in two BMW cars, forced one of the cars in the convoy to stop near the Porte de la Chapelle exit junction on the northern edge of the capital at around 2100 (1900 GMT).
“The assailants … stopped the car, took the wheel and fled taking the driver, an aid and a bodyguard,” one police official said.
No shots were fired, nobody was hurt and the three men were later released, the official told Reuters, adding that the gang stole around 250,000 euros ($335,000) in cash and was still at large.
He said the men appeared to have been carrying hand guns, but investigators were still examining video images.
The stolen car and one of the attackers’ cars were later found burnt in a Parisian suburb.
“We think they were well informed and organised,” a second police official said.
The Kingdom’s embassy in Paris said in a statement carried on Saudi state media that a Mercedes Viano with German plates rented by a Saudi citizen and carrying his personal belongings was forced to stop on the way to the airport and stolen.
It added that media reports the car was affiliated to the embassy and was carrying money and sensitive documents were not true, and said the unnamed Saudi citizen had left France.
Rocco Contento, a representative of police union SGP, said the speed and efficiency of the attack suggested “a very organised, and especially well informed, commando group, who had information and accomplices”.
Contento said it was rare, but not unprecedented, for criminals motivated by financial gain to target dignitaries in this way. “As far as I am concerned, it looks very much like it could be commandos from eastern Europe, who we know about, who are often paid to do dirty work,” he said.
“Is it a financially motivated crime, for money? Is it ordered by another person to get hold of sensitive documents? we don’t know at this stage of the investigation.”