Swedish police criticized after helicopter heist

STOCKHOLM – Swedish police faced stinging criticism Thursday for failing to stop helicopter-borne gunmen from pulling off a Hollywood-style heist against a cash depot while blocking an air pursuit with a fake bomb.

Investigators had made no arrests as of Thursday afternoon, a day after the pre-dawn raid on the G4S cash facility, where millions are stored and processed before being transferred to banks and ATMs in the Stockholm area.

Two men detained for questioning Wednesday were no longer suspects in the robbery, police spokesman Ulf Goranzon said.

Swedish media mixed awe of the robbers' military precision with anger against the police for not mounting a more effective response. The bandits prevented an air pursuit simply by placing a fake bomb at a poorly guarded helipad outside the capital.

"It's just embarrassing that criminals can knock out the police with tricks from a book for boys," columnist Lena Mellin wrote in tabloid Aftonbladet.

In an editorial, Stockholm daily Svenska Dagbladet said police have to become better at protecting themselves and their property "or they won't be able to protect society and citizens."

With cinematic flourish, the masked bandits broke into the building through the roof early Wednesday and set off explosions to get to the millions inside. They escaped by hoisting themselves and their haul back up on rope lines.

Meanwhile, police units on the scene were ordered to remain outside the building and wait for a commando unit to arrive.

"The first police that arrived at the scene weren't equipped to intervene against heavily armed robbers," Goranzon said. "When the right forces arrived the helicopter took off."

Police later found the stolen helicopter near a lake north of Stockholm, about 25 kilometers 15 miles from the cash depot. It wasn't immediately clear how much money was stolen.

The company that owns the high-security facility, G4S PLC, offered a "large reward" for information leading to the bandits' arrest and the return of the loot.

Company spokesman Alexander Westrell dismissed concerns that cash machines across Stockholm would run out of money, saying the cash depot resumed operations late Wednesday.

"The night shift went on last night as usual and managed to provide 99 percent of all the ATMs with money," Westrell told The Associated Press.

Investigators believed at least 10 people were involved. Police across the Scandinavian nation was placed on high alert to find the suspects and boosted monitoring at border checks.

Sweden has had its share of high-profile heists against cash storage facilities, post offices and armored cars in recent years, but police said the commando-style robbery was the first to use a helicopter. Also in previous heists, police have been delayed by spikes or sabotage against their vehicles and helicopters.

Swedish police must "be able to use the equipment that has been acquired for large amounts," the Dagens Nyheter daily wrote in an opinion piece. "Helicopters, cars, boats and other equipment must be kept in a way so that criminals cannot sabotage them."

Britain-based G4S PLC is one of the world's largest security companies. The Vastberga facility stores cash that is transported to banks and other businesses in Sweden. G4s declined to say how much money was in the cash depot when it was attacked.

Associated Press writers Malin Rising and Louise Nordstrom contributed to this report.