Tue, Jun 10, 2008 - Page 6 News List

British police seize cash, guns and art from deposit boxes


British police have uncovered cash, handguns, drugs, art and valuable jewelry after searching safe deposit boxes believed to have been used by criminals, a spokesman said yesterday.

London’s Metropolitan Police said a total of £39 million (US$76.8 million) in cash was seized, as well as counterfeit currency, counterfeit passports, checkbooks and credit cards.

A 60-year-old man and a 44-year-old woman have both been arrested in connection with suspected money laundering, both of whom have been released on bail. They were not identified.

Police said that they recovered two handguns, a “substantial” amount of cannabis, crack cocaine and an unidentified white powder and pills.

Armed police are guarding three London premises that are still being searched, while raids on seven addresses were carried out a week ago.

Initial expert opinion has suggested that of the four works of art seized, three are in the style of 17th century Dutch artists, while the fourth is a 20th century portrait, though all four will be sent for more analysis.

Reports say the seizures may solve the riddle of what happened to the gold bullion stolen during the Brink’s-Mat heist a quarter of a century earlier.

The crime panicked the international gold market, reconfigured London’s criminal map and left a trail of murders in a gangland feud over the missing bounty.

The gold “grains” — carefully wrapped in plastic and wedged inside travel luggage — were hidden inside one of the deposit boxes. Scotland Yard sources, pointing out it was too early to glean the origin of the gold, have confirmed they are examining the “possibility” that it came from the 1983 heist in which bullion worth £26 million was stolen from the Brink’s-Mat warehouse near Heathrow Airport by six armed robbers.

Commander Allan Gibson of Scotland Yard’s specialist crime directorate said his officers had never seen anything like it. The haul is thought to be the single largest discovery of unexplained gold seen in Britain.

Although the Metropolitan Police would not reveal the weight of the discovery, Gibson said the suitcases were so heavy officers struggled to pick them up. The weight of the stolen Brink’s-Mat gold was three-and-a-half tonnes.

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