Dutch, German police arrest suspects in explosive ATM raids

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — Police in the Netherlands and Germany have arrested nine suspected members of a gang responsible for a string of robberies targeting ATMs in Germany and for setting up a training center for blowing up cash machines, European Union police agency Europol said Thursday.

The makeshift training facility in the central Dutch city of Utrecht helped unmask the gang during an 18-month cross-border investigation, according to Europol. Police in the northern German city of Osnabrueck said they became suspicious when a 29-year-old Dutch man there ordered several ATMs, saying they were for an art project in the Netherlands.

Instead, the machines were delivered to a warehouse in Utrecht, where the man and an accomplice tested ways of blowing them up to get at cash inside and made video recordings of their efforts, the police agency said.

“The pair was ordering different models of ATMs and recording tutorials on how to most effectively blow them up,” Europol said in a statement.

Police in the central Netherlands said the 29-year-old ultimately was killed in September 2020 while testing an explosive device at the training center. An accomplice was injured and arrested. Their identities were not released, in line with Dutch and German privacy laws.

Dutch police arrested three suspects Tuesday and raided seven properties, where they found equipment used for blowing up ATMs. Osnabrueck police said the arrests brought the number of suspects detained during the investigatio to nine.

The three suspects arrested this week are expected to be sent to Germany to face prosecution.

The gang is accused of blowing up at least 15 ATMs across Germany, causing millions of euros (dollars) in damage.

Some 414 ATMs were blow up across Germany in 2020, an increase of 19% compared to the previous year. German authorities believe about two-thirds of the suspects come from the Netherlands, where heightened security measures imposed by Dutch banks resulted in criminal activity shifting to Germany.

“The cross-border investigation worked brilliantly,” Osnabrueck police chief Michael Massmann said. “This is a big blow against the international scene that’s blowing up ATMs and their criminal activities.”

“Thanks to our investigation, we managed to get at the people involved in the organization and logistics for the first time,” he added. “We’re going to stay on the case and not let up.”

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Associated Press writer Frank Jordans in Berlin contributed.

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