VENICE, Italy -- Six gunmen burst into an airport warehouse Thursday, disarmed four police officers and made off with gold and jewels worth nearly $2 million in a raid police said closely resembled Britain's record gold heist last weekend.
The raiders, armed with submachine guns and pistols, forced the four guards and 10 employees in the building at Venice's Marco Polo airport to lie on the ground, clubbing one worker on the head, while they robbed the vaults.
Graziano Costantini, 35, was taken to a local hospital with slight injuries.
The six robbers forced three of the employees to open a vault in the state-owned warehouse at gunpoint and remove 25 packages containing a total of 353 pounds of gold and jewels. Police earlier said 10 gunmen were involved in the heist, but later revised their estimate after talking to witnesses, although they said accomplices may have been involved.
Agents said the raiders then loaded the loot on three automobiles commandeered from airport authorities and drove off at high speed.
Police said the heist at the Venice airport resembled closely a raid at a high-security warehouse at London's Heathrow airport Saturday when hooded gunmen stole gold bullion worth an estimated $37.5 million in the biggest holdup in British history.
The similarities between the British robbery, which received wide coverage in the Italian media over the week-end, and the Venice heist were that both took place at an airport warehouse by six men armed with guns using the same technique and in both cases gold and jewels were stolen.
Police said it was too early to speculate whether the same gang was responsible or whether the Venice heist was inspired by the London job.
Officers from the finance police, the national force in charge of customs control and fraud detection, said the gold and jewels were awaiting export on a Lufthansa airlines flight to Frankfurt, West Germany. Some of the estimated 3 billion lire ($1.87 million) consignment was to have been transhipped to cities in the United States, including New York and Los Angeles, they said.
The gold and jewels belonged to a group of jewelry companies in the northern city of Vicenza.