The masked and armed thieves exchanged fire with police officers, with one gang members shot dead at the scene. The gang of thieves broke into Mother Teresa International Airport through an entrance used by firefighters. They swiped bags of cash which was about to be loaded on a plane from a van. The thieves then targeted the plane, which was headed to Vienna, threatening passengers and staff with guns and ordered them to the ground.
A police helicopter continued to give chase to the three other accomplices, but they managed to escape and are still on the loose.
The gunman was found with an assault weapon, a grenade and magazines with bullets.
A police statement said: “The perpetrators exchanged fire with the police during the chase in a secondary road and one of them lost his life in that exchange.”
Officers initially believed the armed robbers made off with £1.7 million, but say the amount could be as much as £8.5 million.
Airports in Albania transport hard currency through air shipments via Rinas airport to Vienna, because the central band does not accept their cash deposits.
In February 2017, thieves made off with €2.76 million (3.2 million) in Albania’s capital near Rinas airport while in June 2016, another £858,000 (€995,000) was stolen in Tirana.
Police managed to retrieve majority of the stolen money found in pressure cookers buried underground.
The police suspected the two heists were linked, and both carried out by the same gang.
At the time, Albania’s Minister of Interior Sajmir Tahiri called for more cooperation between banks and state authorities while demanding the Government to increase salaries for private security guards.
Low employee salaries were cited as the main reason making security guards an easy prey to criminal syndicates, who hire them as informants.