Bank clerk claims €90,000 ‘fell in river’

A former bank employee in Salzburg has been sentenced to 20 months in prison for embezzlement. He claimed that almost €90,000 had “fallen into a river” when he stopped to change his car tire.

Bank clerk claims €90,000 'fell in river'
River Taurach. Photo: Wikipedia

In 2013 the bank clerk was tasked with transporting the money from a savings bank branch in Obertauern to its headquarters in Radstadt.

During the trip, the 46-year-old said he got a flat, and claims that whilst he was fixing his car the money got swept away.

He said that he had put the money in a plastic bag, and then into a banana box which he put in the trunk of his car. He also put a bag containing €670 worth of coins and blank savings books in the trunk. He claimed that when he noticed he had a flat, he had to put the banana box on the ground near to the car, in order to access the spare tyre and jack. He told the judge that he didn’t notice that the fast-flowing Taurach river was nearby.

According to a report in the Salzburger Nachrichten, the judge was incredulous. “You put money worth almost €90,000 near to a flooded stream – did you not think that might be dangerous?”

The bank clerk said that suddenly he noticed that the banana box had gone, but could not explain how it might have fallen into the river. “This is a question that has given me sleepless nights, maybe I knocked the box with the spare tire, maybe the coins shifted, and the box fell down…”

Police, mountain rescuers, and fire fighters searched the river for hours looking for the money but only found €3,500. The prosecution accused the clerk of having thrown in some of the money so that people would believe it had been an accident, and said that he in fact embezzled around €87,000 euros.

The defence pleaded for an acquittal, despite the many contradictions in the accused’s testimony. "There was a chain of unfortunate circumstances. He had no motive, he was not in debt and had no financial obligations,” his lawyer, Helmut Schott, pleaded.

However, the judge ruled that he could not believe the man’s story. The bank was awarded compensation of €87,000 euros.

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EXPLAINED: What to do if you experience online abuse in Austria

Following the suicide of an Austrian doctor who received threats from Covid-19 anti-vaccination activists, the government has now launched a new campaign to help victims of online abuse.

EXPLAINED: What to do if you experience online abuse in Austria

The Austrian medical community was left in shock in July when Lisa-Maria Kellermayr, a local doctor in Seewalchen am Attersee in Upper Austria, took her own life following months of online abuse.

Kellermayr, 36, had been targeted by anti-vaccination activists and Covid-19 conspiracy theorists for her out-spoken support of vaccines, and the abuse even included death threats. 

Her death prompted candlelight vigils and demonstrations in Vienna and the tragic story was picked up by news outlets around the world.

READ MORE: How Austria’s attempt to make vaccines mandatory changed the country

This led to calls for tighter laws against online bullying and the ability for perpetrators to be prosecuted in other EU countries – particularly as at least two of the people who are believed to have targeted Kellermayr are based in Germany, according to the Guardian.

The Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP) has even called for the creation of a special public prosecutor’s office to deal with “hate-on-the-net”, but this has been rejected by prosecutors and other political parties, as reported by ORF.

Instead, the Federal Justice Department has launched a new information campaign, website and hotline to help people dealing with online abuse.

FOR MEMBERS: What happens if you get arrested in Austria?

What is in the new campaign?

Austria’s Justice Minister Alma Zadic (Greens) said they have launched the campaign to raise awareness about the issue and to inform victims about the support available.

Zadic said: “It is important to me that those affected know that they are not alone in this situation and that the judiciary supports them with free psychological and legal process support.”

“You don’t have to cope alone with the extraordinary burdens that criminal proceedings can entail, for example through confrontation with the perpetrators.”

READ ALSO: Austria in shock over doctor’s suicide following anti-vax abuse

Part of the support package is the new website Hilfe bei Gewalt (Help with Violence), which details how to access help from the authorities, as well as secure free legal advice and representation from a lawyer.

The website states the service is for victims of bullying and/or hate online, defamation, stalking, terrorism, incitement, sexual violence and robbery.

The service is designed to be anonymous with options to contact the Justice Department by phone or via a chat box. The website also lists contact details for regional support services in all provinces across Austria. 

The free (kostenlos) hotline for Hilfe bei Gewalt is 0800 112 112.

Useful links

Hilfe bei Gewalt

Austrian Federal Justice Department