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Freeze! First ever armed bank robbery near North Pole foiled

Little village in the North Pole

Bizarre attempt to rob a bank in a remote settlement near the North Pole comes to nothing.

The North Pole is synonymous with many things: intrepid explorers, stunning glaciers, polar bears and, of course, Santa Claus.

One thing it is not known for is bank robberies but just before Christmas, the world’s northernmost settlement Norway’s remote Arctic archipelago of Svalbard, only 1000km from the North Pole, recorded what is believed to be the first ever attempt at an armed bank heist near the North Pole.

Svalbard, located in the Arctic Ocean halfway between Norway and the North Pole, is famous for its glaciers and polar bears – indeed they outnumber the human population. There are just 2,000 people who live in the regional capital, Longyearbyen, where the robber was apprehended by local police officers.

“There was an armed robbery …and a man with a gun seized a sum of money,” Terje Carlsen, a spokesman for the local governor, told newswire AFP. The suspected robber was sent to the northern town of Tromsø on the mainland to be questioned.

Authorities initially declined to give more details about the suspect’s identity, the amount stolen or the weapon used in the robbery. Subsequently, however, Norway Today reported that a 29-year-old man from Russia was detained for four weeks, charged with robbing a bank in Svalbard.

During the custody meeting, the Russian, who was in Svalbard as a tourist, acknowledged the criminal charges but according to his defence lawyer, Ulf E. Hansen, it was not a real attempt at gaining money. “The purpose was never to rob the bank. This was about getting attention,” said the defence.

The odds of the heist succeeding were always very low on the remote archipelago, where the main way of leaving is via plane and temperatures in winter regularly plunge to below -20C (-4F), and can drop below -40C.