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Five men jailed for Britain depot robbery

The men, three Britons and two Albanian nationals, took part in "organised banditry for uniquely high stakes", says the judge.

world Updated: Jan 30, 2008 11:39 IST

A gang of five men who staged Britain's biggest armed cash raid on a Bank of England security depot after kidnapping its manager and tying up terrified employees were given minimum jail terms of between 10 and 15 years.

The men, three Britons and two Albanian nationals, took part in "organised banditry for uniquely high stakes" when they raided the Securitas depot in Tonbridge, southern Britain, in February 2006, the judge at London's Old Bailey Criminal Court said on Tuesday.

After the 66-minute raid, the robbers left with 53 million pounds ($100 million), of which 21 million pounds ($41.7 million) have been recovered and 32 million pounds ($63.6 million) are still missing and are believed to have been spirited away to Morocco and Northern Cyprus.

On the eve of the raid, members of the gang kidnapped depot manager Colin Dixon and his family at gunpoint to gain entry to the depot and repeatedly threatened to kill them.

Posing as police officers, two of the men stopped Dixon's car on his way home, took him to an isolated house and then tricked his wife and young son into coming with them, saying Dixon had had a car accident.

The Dixons were then driven to the depot, where they were tied up together with 14 terrified employees and held in cash loading cages as the robbers transported their haul into a lorry.

The robbers, who were heavily armed and wore prosthetic disguises used by actors, left 153 million pounds ($304 million) behind because they could not fit any more into the vehicle, the court heard.

The Dixon's child eventually managed to wriggle through the bars of the cage and helped free the others.

All five men were convicted on kidnap, robbery and firearms charges.

The judge recommended that Emir Hysenaj, 28, and Jetmir Bucpapa, 26, be deported to Albania at the end of their jail term.

Hysenaij, a Securitas employee who aided the gang by filming inside the depot using a miniature vide camera, was given a "determinate" 20-year sentence, which means he could be eligible for parole after 10 years.

Fellow-Albanian Bucpapa, car salesman Stuart Royle, kick boxer Lea Rusha and garage owner Roger Coutts were given a minimum of 15 years.

The judge at London's Old Bailey Criminal Court said the men were "motivated by the prospect of dishonest gain almost beyond the dreams of avarice".

Prosecutors said the men were "lured by luxury, ease and idleness" and prepared to target the innocent and vulnerable to achieve it.

But for those caught up in the raid it had been a life-changing experience, "and not for the better", the judge said.

Earlier in the seven-month trial, prosecutor Roger Coe-Salazar warned against "romanticising" the raid.

"When you have a case of this magnitude it's easy for it to be romanticised like 'Ocean's 12' as a victimless crime," he said.

"There is nothing romantic about a child being held at gunpoint by a masked man. This was a callous and a highly dangerous crime."