Gang steals 9000 French passports

PT       2004-02-05 
A GANG has stolen 9000 blank French passports and 6000 vehicle registration cards in a heist of a truck outside Paris.

Police said a gang of armed and masked men yesterday hijacked the truck that was transporting the documents to a police station in a northern suburb, briefly taking two hostages in the heist.

The truck involved was found a short time after the incident, empty except for one bag of documents apparently forgotten by the criminals.

Police said the gang was well informed about what was in the truck. They took it, the driver and a passenger to an unknown location before transferring the goods to two cars and fleeing.

According to officials, the robbery could pay off handsomely, with each passport fetching on the black market up to 1500 euro ($2465).

The vehicle registration cards only sell for maximum 700 euro ($1150) but aid in the trafficking of stolen vehicles.

A police officer said false registration papers were the best way to give a car a new "identity".