They usually come at night, strike at lightning speed and are gone again minutes later with high loot: gangs who blow up ATMs. Destroyed buildings and often enough traumatized residents remain behind. South German investigators have now struck a blow against a Dutch gang, which is said to have blown up more than 50 ATMs in this country and stole 5.2 million euros.
According to current knowledge, the perpetrators who have been active since November 2021 have always chosen ATMs in the two southern German states, with the exception of one attack in Thuringia. This was announced by the State Criminal Police Offices of Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg and the public prosecutor's office in Bamberg on Thursday in Munich.
Three days earlier, the officers had searched 16 buildings in a raid in the Dutch provinces of Utrecht and Limburg and in Belgium in cooperation with the local police. Nine men between the ages of 25 and 41 who were wanted on an arrest warrant were arrested and are now to be extradited to Germany. Three more are still being sought. "This is one of the largest actions against ATM blasters in the Netherlands," said the German investigators.
"Modern" raid strategy
"The ATM blast is considered a modern bank robbery," said Bavaria's Justice Minister Georg Eisenreich (CSU). For the perpetrators, the method is attractive because of the high amount of loot, although it carries a prison sentence of up to 15 years. Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann (CSU) reported, citing the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA), that there had been 493 such acts nationwide in the previous year - a record.
The BKA had previously explained on request: "In some cases, up to five ATMs were blown up in one night throughout Germany." In the end, the perpetrators often used solid explosives, which means that the explosions have a significantly higher risk potential than with the previously used method of detonating with injected gas. Then they usually race away in high-powered cars. In the case of the now exposed gang, the getaway car, which had stolen license plates and was loaded with spare canisters, had 600 hp.
No fatalities have been reported in Germany as a result of the blast itself. However, according to the BKA, there were several fatal traffic accidents afterwards. "So far, the fatalities have only been perpetrators." Some of their companions also suffered serious injuries. According to the information, uninvolved third parties had to be treated for smoke poisoning, shock or bang trauma.
Usually high property damage
"The perpetrators ruthlessly blast their way to the money, risk the lives of bystanders and destroy buildings," emphasized Baden-Württemberg's Interior Minister Thomas Strobl (CDU) in a statement. The property damage is regularly higher than the loot. In the current series, it is said to be 6.5 million euros.
Due to "the unscrupulousness and extreme danger involved in the execution," the public prosecutor's office is now investigating not only serious gang theft, causing an explosive device explosion and the destruction of buildings, but also eleven cases of attempted homicide. Often enough there were apartments above the machines, and once a nursing home had to be evacuated.
In order to put a stop to the perpetrators, the police and politicians also rely on banks and vending machine manufacturers. In joint talks at the end of last year, it was determined that measures should not only be taken at machines in particularly vulnerable situations. These may include closing self-service foyers at night, reducing cash holdings, obfuscation, or discoloring and gluing mechanisms that render cash unusable in the event of an attack.
However, the Baden-Württemberg savings bank president Peter Schneider complained just on Thursday that the banks often "invest behind" the perpetrators. Attacks in which the perpetrators used mechanical spreading tools, which the fire brigade usually uses in traffic accidents, increased in the south-west.