NEWS

Euros or drachmas? It makes no difference to bank robbers

For most Greeks the introduction of Europe’s single currency in the country has proved a headache in the efforts to make the right conversions in their daily business transactions. For others, however, namely bank robbers, it’s made no difference. It’s business as usual. Two hooded men holding a Kalashnikov assault rifle and a pistol stormed an Alpha Bank branch in the Athens suburb of Vyronas yesterday, snatching 20,000 euros in what was the second armed robbery in Greece after the introduction of the euro nationwide. Yesterday’s robbery came just one day after a man brandishing a pistol snatched 100,000 euros from a Post Office Savings Bank in the capital’s Holargos area. The armed robber walked into the bank minutes after the doors opened at 8.10 a.m., wearing a motorcycle helmet and holding a pistol in his hand. Five employees and three customers were inside the bank at the time. The robber demanded all the money that was inside the cash registers, irrespective of whether it was in euros or drachmas. He stole both and managed to walk away with 100,000 euros (34,075,000 drs) and 1.5 million drachmas. Although this was the first bank robbery in the country since the introduction of the euro, it was not the first time that euros were stolen in Greece. On December 20 two armed men had stolen 3,261 euros from an employee of an electronics company, who had obtained the currency ahead of time for the company. But Greece was not alone in euro robberies. Police in Ireland said on Wednesday that three robbers armed with a hammer and a knife grabbed about 2,000 euros from the register of a village bank before escaping in a waiting car. A 17-year-old boy in the Netherlands was robbed at gunpoint of his first 100 euros on New Year’s Day. The robberies were the first in the 12-nation eurozone since Europe’s new money went into circulation Tuesday, but caused little concern among European banking officials. They had been concerned about robberies carried out before the currency debut, allowing counterfeiters to see the euro before consumers. Nearly 3 million euros were stolen in five countries, including Spain, Germany, Italy, France and the Netherlands.