Police catch armoured van robbers

Two criminals who attacked an armoured van and stole €200,000 outside a bank in Upper Austria have been arrested as they attempted to flee Austria.

Police catch armoured van robbers
The money was concealed in washing powder boxes. Photo: Police

After two witnesses came forward police were able to track the robbers down, 200 metres from Austria’s border with Hungary – and found the cash hidden in cartons of washing powder.

They arrested a 36-year-old and a 40-year-old Romanian man, together with the older man’s 22-year-old girlfriend.

One witness said he had seen a VW Golf with a Vienna number plate parked for hours outside the bank in Marchtrenk, but had noticed that the car’s occupants did not get out. He thought they were behaving suspiciously so he made a mental note of the number plate.

When he heard about the robbery – in which the drivers of the armoured car were threatened at gunpoint and left tied up in the bank – he immediately informed the police.

The second witness was a driver who was almost rammed by the crooks’ car as they sped onto the motorway near Wels.

"Whilst we were evaluating this information colleagues from Lower Austria told us that they had already been observing this car in connection with a series of break-ins," said Ferdinand Jung, from the Upper Austrian state police. Lower Austrian police knew that the suspects were staying in hotels in Vienna – and promptly discovered the getaway car.

"During our investigation we became aware of a Romanian Audi A4, and we suspected that the suspects were preparing to leave the country in this car," police chief Gottfried Mitterlehner said.

Police followed the car and arrested the suspects close to the Hungarian border. The 40-year-old man has already served four years in an Austrian prison.

Initially police thought they might have made a false arrest as they didn’t see any money or weapons in the car. But on closer inspection officers found bundles of money hidden in cartons of washing powder. The older man and his girlfriend had already booked flights from Bucharest to Mykonos. 

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What happens if you get arrested in Austria?

It’s always good to know your legal rights when living as a foreigner in Austria - including if you get in trouble with the police.

What happens if you get arrested in Austria?

Getting arrested is probably not high up on a list of must-dos for international residents in Austria, but it’s not a bad idea to know what would happen if you did.

In a nutshell, the process in Austria is similar to most other countries in that you have to be suspected of committing a crime to be arrested.

But what happens next? What are your rights? And how long can someone be held in custody?

Here’s what you need to know.

FOR MEMBERS: EXPLAINED: What cyclists and drivers in Austria need to know about new rules

When can someone be arrested in Austria?

If someone is suspected of being a criminal, they can be arrested by the police and taken to a police station for questioning. 

Under the Austrian Code of Criminal Procedure, suspects must be informed of their rights as soon as possible, or at the very least before being interrogated by the police.

They also have a right to remain silent or to make a statement, as well as consult a lawyer.

According to Vienna-based attorney Evert Vastenburg, the initial detainment after arrest can last up to 48 hours while a judge decides whether a person should remain in custody or not.

A suspect can then be released on bail or under certain conditions, such as handing over a passport to police.

However, those suspected of serious crimes that typically lead to a prison sentence of 10 years or more (if found guilty) are almost always remanded in custody.

READ MORE: Austria wary of cyber attacks after personal data of foreign residents leaked online

When is someone remanded in custody?

To be refused bail and remanded in custody, there must be serious suspicion that another crime could be committed. 

The judge also must believe there is no other way to deal with the suspect. For example, he/she needs to be readily available to the authorities for questioning.

Another valid reason to keep someone in custody past the initial 48 hours is the risk of someone absconding. In fact, Vastenburg says a flight risk is often assumed with people that do not live and work in Austria.

Other reasons to deny a suspect release are a risk that evidence will be destroyed, witnesses will be contacted, or there is a possibility that further crimes will be committed.

What happens if bail is denied?

If bail is denied and a person must be held in custody for more than 48 hours, they have to be legally represented by a lawyer.

If a suspect can’t afford to hire a lawyer, they will be appointed a Verfahrenshilfe (public defender) by the state.

The case will be then reviewed by a judge on a regular basis to decide if custody should continue.

The first review will take place after 14 days, then at one month and every two months, but a suspect can petition for release at any time.

READ ALSO: Six tourist scams to be aware of in Austria

How many foreigners are in Austrian prisons?

According to data from the Austrian Judiciary, the number of foreigners in Austrian jails as of June 1st 2022 was 4,332 – almost 50 percent of all prisoners.

In relation to the statistics, the Austrian Judiciary states: “The high proportion of foreigners is one of many challenges for the Austrian penal system. 

“In particular, with regard to successful rehabilitation, the fastest possible transfer to the countries of origin is encouraged.

The most common nationality of foreign prisoners in Austria is Romanian, followed by people from the former Yugoslavian states, Hungary, Nigeria and Turkey.