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Raids on ATMs rise in Germany

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Germany's banking sector is suffering from more than one explosive attack on a cash machine per day, while other European countries have found ways to deter criminal gangs behind the raids.

Frankfurt am Main

RAIDS on cash machines have increased in number in Germany, with some 369 ATMs destroyed by explosions last year, a 38 per cent increase compared with 2017 and 10 times more than a decade ago, according to data from the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA).

Most of the crimes follow the same pattern, with perpetrators using an electric detonator or fuse to set off a mixture of gases pumped into the machine - or more rarely a solid explosive.

Carried out late at night, perpetrators often plan the attacks "months in advance", according to Europol.

The crimes can be risky, with one man killed in October 2018 while attempting a similar attack on a ticket machine at a local train station in Halle, south-west of Berlin.

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But successful attacks on ATMs are highly lucrative. In May, raiders who blasted open a Commerzbank cash machine in Eschborn, near Frankfurt, made off with 190,000 euros (S$290,735).

Many cash machine crackers come "from the Netherlands and central Europe" to Germany simply because of its favourable geography, Frankfurt prosecutor Christian Hartwig said.

Germany accounts for more than one-third of the attacks recorded across 11 large European countries surveyed by the European Association for Secure Transactions (EAST).

While cash machine attacks have mounted in Germany, the number reported in the other 10 nations studied by EAST, including France and Britain, fell 15 per cent to just under 700 altogether.

Such data highlight how banks can work together with government support to reduce the incentives to blast open ATMs.

In the Netherlands, lenders created the "Geldmaat" network, agreeing to hold less cash in each machine but refill them more regularly in order to reduce the potential payoff for any one raid.

France ordered banks in 2015 to fit ATMs with systems that stain banknotes if they are forcibly removed.

Europol credits the move with sharply reducing the number of attacks in France, which fell from 304 in 2013 to just 58 in 2018, according to National Gendarmerie figures. AFP

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