PARIS -- A team of highly organized thieves wearing bulletproof vests held 11 people at gunpoint and robbed a Brink's depot of up to $9 million Monday in one of the largest robberies in history, authorities said.
A group of about 10 thieves forced two Brink's security transport company employees to open vaults at the depot in the northwestern suburb of Colombes while their families were held at gunpoint in their homes, police said.
No one was injured, police said, and the thieves made off with between $8 million and $9 million in cash and checks.
It was believed to be the 10th largest peacetime robbery in history and the third largest mainly cash robbery in France.
Police said at least 11 people were held at gunpoint during the eight-hour robbery but that no shots were fired.
They said the thieves burst into the home of a Brinks employee Sunday night and held the man's wife and his 10-year-old son hostage in their house while he was taken to the depot and forced to open doors for the thieves.
A second employee was picked up at his home at about 4 a.m. to help the thieves get into the vaults and past the depot's elaborate security system. The employee's wife and 20-year-old son were also held hostage in their house during the robbery.
Police said about five Brinks employees who arrived for their shifts during the night were also held at gunpoint by the robbers.
The thieves, armed with rifles and bludgeons and wearing bulletproof vests, cleaned out the vaults in an hour without tripping the alarm system and sped off in waiting getaway cars, police said.
They said the robbers communicated with walkie-talkies during the operation.
Seven armored car personnel and two police officers have been killed in a rash of attacks on security companies in France this year, including an anti-tank grenade attack by thieves on an armored van May 31 near Marseille that killed all three men in the vehicle.
A driver and two police were killed May 30 in Paris in a robbery against a security van that netted thieves about $5 million.
It was the second major robbery in two months in the Paris region. On Oct. 27, five thieves held employees and visitors at gunpoint in broad daylight at the Marmotten Museum and made off with nine paintings, including Claude Monet's 'Impression of the Rising Sun,' valued at $13 million.
Thieves took $11.5 million in an armed robbery of the Caisse d'Epargne bank in Paris in November 1980 and $9.8 million in July 1976 from the Societe Generale Bank, in Nice, France.
The largest peactime robbery ever was of $39 million in gold and diamonds stolen Nov. 26, 1983, by masked gunmen from Brink's Mat, a subsidiary of Brink's, at a warehouse at Britain's Heathrow Airport.