Armed robbers attacked the motorcade of a Saudi prince in Paris, making off with €250,000 (HK$335,000) in cash and reportedly stealing "sensitive" documents, police said yesterday.
The robbery took place late on Sunday as the motorcade was making its way from a hotel on the Champs Elysees to an airport in Le Bourget, said police, who confirmed there were no injuries.
A gang of "between five and eight" thieves in two BMWs hijacked the first of some 10 vehicles in the convoy, driving off with the three occupants before letting them go, police said.
A police source and Le Parisien daily had said the men were armed with Kalashnikov rifles, but an official later said they were carrying handguns.
The Saudis' Mercedes and one of the thieves' BMWs were later found abandoned and burned out in Saint-Mesmes, 40km to the northeast of Paris.
Police found two €500 notes, documents in Arabic and medication near the burned-out wrecks of the two cars.
According to Le Parisien, the robbers made off with "sensitive" diplomatic documents.
A source close to the investigation confirmed the theft of diplomatic documents but said: "For the moment, we have no details about the nature of these documents. They could be sensitive documents but they could equally well be unimportant."
"It's quite an unusual attack. They were obviously well-informed. It's true that it's quite a rare way of operating," one police source said.
No suspects have yet been apprehended.
The head of a national police union, Nicolas Comte, said: "We need to find out what they were looking for, the money or the documents.
"I hope we will also have efficient cooperation with the Saudi authorities," he added.
The investigation has been turned over to the BRB special police unit in charge of armed robberies.
One source close to the investigation, who did not wish to be named, said: "If they were looking for sensitive documents, that changes the nature of the crime.
"It will no longer be an armed robbery, but something more complicated," the source added.
Initial results of the investigation had revealed that the robbers were obviously "aware of what they would find by attacking that specific car and not the others", he added.