FRANCE: Bank Heist of the Century

The vault door of the elegant main branch bank of the Société Générale in Nice had been a problem for months. So bank officials were not unduly concerned early last Monday when its 50-year-old mechanism seemed stuck again. Then, after hours of unsuccessful tinkering, they decided to break through the vault wall—and made a discovery that caused consternation on yachts and in villas up and down France's fabled Côte d'Azur.

The door had been welded shut—from the inside. Behind it, a group of meticulous weekend robbers had pulled off what French headlines...

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