Paris: Seven men went on trial on Tuesday in Paris for the spectacular 2014 attack on a Saudi prince’s convoy that saw them make off with bundles of cash, jewellery and diplomatic papers.
Abdul Aziz Bin Fahd, the youngest son of the former King Fahd, left his suite at the plush George V hotel - owned by a fellow prince, Alwaleed bin Talal - in the evening of August 17, heading to Le Bourget airport north of Paris.
He was later followed by his official motorcade of around a dozen cars led by a Mercedes Viano van, which was forced to a halt by two stolen BMWs just as it entered the access ramp for the motorway leading to the airport.
In a heist worthy of a Hollywood action scene, armed men wearing balaclavas stormed and hijacked the Mercedes, threw out its passengers and drove off. No shots were fired and nobody was harmed.
The prince himself was already airborne as the heist unfolded, headed for Ibiza in Spain, Le Parisien daily reported.
The stolen loot included 250,000 euros ($300,000 at current rates) in cash, another $300,000 in cash, luxury watches and Saudi diplomatic documents.
Investigators suspected the assailants had inside help since they appeared to know exactly which car to target in the robbery.
The cars were later found torched in a small town northeast of Paris.
The paper said days earlier anti-gang police, suspicious of increased activity in the Paris underworld consistent with a planned robbery, had put some of the group’s members under increased surveillance.
As the formal investigation got underway, data from that surveillance helped police assemble evidence of the conspiracy, Le Parisien said.
Suspicions hardened when the alleged attackers started freely spending cash on holidays, cars and motorbikes. One suspect opened two convenience stores and another a chicha bar outside Paris.
Nine months after the heist, in May 2015, police arrested around a dozen people and later charged six of them, aged 27 to 51, with aggravated robbery.
Some of the men were from gritty housing projects near the French capital, while others were part of Roma communities. Most had police records involving violent robbery or drug trafficking.
A seventh suspect was arrested in 2017.
Only one of the accused, identified as Ludovic L., has admitted any wrongdoing, saying he had stolen the two BMWs used in the heist.
The suspects risk up to 30 years in jail if found guilty of the charges of “armed robbery in a gang” and “membership of a criminal conspiracy”.
The trial is to last just under three weeks.