Robbers struck against an SAS plane, flight SK524 from London Heathrow, according to SAS’s information manager Bertil Tenert.
The robbers rammed through the gates of the airport with a vehicle, possibly a Jeep Cherokee that was later found burnt out on a road near the airport.
The attack took place at around 12.30 pm, at the exact moment when bags containing money were being unloaded into a Securitas secure vehicle, it was revealed at a press conference at the airport on Tuesday afternoon. The bags largely contained foreign exchange.
Hans Lippens of Swedish Police said that Securitas staff were threatened by the thieves, who were armed and masked. No shots were fired.
It is believed that the assailants might have made away in the Jeep, changing cars later to a Volvo, which was found burnt out by Landvetter church, a few kilometres away.
There were 91 passengers, including two children, and five crew on the SAS flight. They were disembarking the plane when the robbers struck against staff unloading the aircraft hold.
An unnamed passenger on another flight that arrived from London at 12.40 told news agency TT that he saw what was happening from the window of the plane.
“When I saw men with masks running towards a red car I realised it was a robbery,” he said, adding that he was stuck at the airport because his plane could not be emptied of luggage.
SAS Cargo was responsible for freight handling on the flight.
According to Rolf Friberg, chairman and information manager at foreign exchange company Forex, the money was intended for a number of banks in western Sweden.
The amount that was stolen has not yet been revealed. John Bergström at Securitas said that the amount was less than the 44 million kronor stolen in the hold up of a plane at Stockholm’s Arlanda airport in June 2002.
“It is far from that amount,” said Bergström.
It is also unknown how many robbers there were, although some evidence suggests there were three, say police.
“Evidently a well-planned robbery,” was Lippen’s judgment.
The police’s job has been complicated by the fact that the robbers placed a bag on the tarmac by the plane.
“We are working on the assumption that it contains explosives, and are treating it as suspect for the moment,” Lippen commented.
The bag has posed major problems for flights in and out of the airport, as the safety cordon of 200 metres has forced the closure of the international departures hall.
These parts of the airport will remain closed until at least 7pm on Tuesday, according to Landvetter’s security manager Dan Larsson. It would take until then to determine what is in the case.
Domestic flights are continuing, but with severe delays.