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From The Sun:
£2.5bn safety deposit box raid
Armed … cops seal off Mayfair street before Park Lane depot raid
Last Updated: 10 Jun 2008
ARMED police yesterday raided three safe deposit box centres thought to contain £2.5billion in illegal cash and contraband.
In a massive blow to organised crime, 300 officers took part in the swoops.
Detectives were last night preparing to open up 7,000 security boxes.
Cops suspect up to 90 per cent are owned by gangsters under false names. They fear some may contain explosives and were using sniffer dogs to check them before drilling the locks.
Explosive task … sniffer dogs were used in the raid
Scotland Yard used the 2002 Proceeds of Crime Act to obtain a warrant from a judge at Croydon Crown Court in Surrey yesterday to carry out the raids.
Assistant Commissioner John Yates described the operation as “huge”.
He said: “There are potential links to organised crime such as paedophilia, firearms, drug trafficking, fraud, people smuggling, prostitution and money laundering.” Mr Yates added: “The application for search warrants was not taken lightly and was the culmination of a considerable amount of painstaking police work.
“It will take a significant period of time to assess the material. Every box will have its own story.”
The searches were carried out on deposit centres in Park Lane, central London, and Hampstead and Edgware in North London.
They are all owned by a company called Safe Deposit Centres Ltd.
Hidden treasures … Park Lane boxes
Two of the firm’s directors were yesterday arrested at their homes in Hertfordshire. A woman is also believed to have been held.
Police were last night searching the home of the firm’s boss Milton Wolff in Golders Green, North London. Mr Wolff was not one of those arrested.
Detectives began investigating the firm two years ago over suspicions it was leasing boxes to gangsters with no questions asked.
The Yard then launched Operation Rize to build a full picture of clients using the safe deposit boxes.
Mr Yates said: “Operation Rize is a money-laundering investigation, one of the largest of its kind ever.” He stressed that some of the boxes would be legitimate and encouraged their owners to contact police.
But a top Met source told The Sun: “It is not unreasonable to suggest we could be looking at up to £2.5billion in illegal assets being held in the 7,000 boxes.”
London mayor Boris Johnson praised the operation.
In 1987, a gang led by Italian Valerio Viccei got away with £40million after breaking into 126 boxes at a safe deposit centre in Knightsbridge, London.