TOKYO -- Three men, armed with a can of chemical spray, stole $2 million from a cash delivery van parked in downtown Tokyo today and escaped after carrying out the biggest armored car robbery in Japan, police said.
Police said the trio took less than a third of the cash -- about $7 million -- from the van in the incident around 8:30 a.m. today, which took place shortly after the vehicle parked in front of the Yurakucho branch of the Mitsubishi Bank, a major commercial bank.
As the armed car driver, Seichi Aizawa, 38, was unlocking the back door of the vehicle, two men whose faces were hidden under helmets came out of a parked car and approached him, a police spokesman said.
One assailant hit Aizawa on the head and the other squirted him in the face with an unknown chemical from a spray can, which the driver later described as having a 'stimulating smell.' Aizawa did not need medical help.
A short scuffle ensued, but the robbers quickly grabbed two cases containing about $2 million in cash and three sacks filled with an undisclosed amount of checks, securities and documents from the van.
They fled in a white van, which held the third member of the trio.
The getaway car was found about 45 minutes later in a basement parking lot in the Ginza, a shopping area about 500 yards from the scene of the crime.
The three took the sacks and were believed to have escaped from the parking lot in a different vehicle.
The crime was the biggest robbery of an armored car in Japanese history.
The men, however, did not take all the money in the delivery van, which was making the first of four deliveries to Mitsubishi Bank branches at the time and carrying some $7 million in cash alone, the police spokesman said.
The manager of the Yurakucho Branch, Ichiro Satake, 51, said in a television interview the delivery van was carrying more cash than usual because the delivery was being made after a three-day weekend.
The 25th of each month is also pay day for most Japanese private company employees.
Police suspect the robbers carefully planned the crime since the trio knew the route of the delivery van and picked a relatively quiet corner of the normally bustling Yurakucho area.
An investigation was launched and police in Tokyo wereput on alert.