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Armed robbers in Rome euro heist

Euros stolen even before they have become legal tender  

ROME, Italy -- Three armed robbers stole 260,000 euros ($228,500) from a bank on the outskirts of Rome, police have said.

It is the third time euros have been stolen ahead of their introduction on January 1, 2002.

The latest heist happened at a Banca di Roma branch on Thursday, when three men dressed in wigs waited for bank employees to arrive before tying them up and gagging them.

The director of the Banca di Roma branch was forced to open the safe when he arrived for work, police said.

The employees managed to free themselves an hour later and alerted security forces, but the thieves had already made off with the stash of freshly printed euros and about 100 million lire ($45,000).

How businesses are coping with the change: CNN's Diana Muriel reports

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In September a gang of heavily armed men stole about 5,000 new euro coins from a postal safe in the southern town of Bari.

Italy is not the only eurozone country to have experienced euro thefts ahead of the currency's launch.

About 1.2 million euros were stolen from a security van in Giessen, north of Frankfurt, in September although police recouped most of the money a few weeks later.

"E-Day" is on January 1, 2002, when 50 billion new coins and 14.5 billion new banknotes will become legal tender overnight in the 12 countries which have chosen to adopt a single currency and become part of "euroland."

The citizens of Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Holland, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Portugal and Spain will see their money fused into a single currency.

For two months, until the end of February, the new currency and the old will circulate together. From then on the old currencies will cease to be legal tender.

In what is considered the biggest monetary change in history, 300 million people will have to transact all their business in euros.

It will require a huge logistical operation. Troops are being deployed to help move the coins, weighing about 250,000 tonnes, and the 14.5 billion banknotes from 15 printing presses across the EU.

In the early hours of New Year's Day 2002, more than 200,000 cash machines will have to be converted by an army of technicians.


• Banca di Roma

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