Prisoner robbed banks on day release

A bank robber described by the judge as “particularly brazen” has been sentenced to nine years in prison by Vienna’s Criminal Court.

Prisoner robbed banks on day release
The man in court. Photo: APA/Hochmuth

The 38-year-old man had been previously sentenced in January 2012 to four years in prison for armed robbery. However he took advantage of being allowed out on day release for good behaviour from Hirtenberg prison by robbing three banks in Vienna.

“It doesn’t sound very good,” his lawyer admitted. He said that his client was “a family man who was well behaved for almost 20 years and worked as a carpenter.” In his defence he said the man fell into “a downward spiral” due to gambling debts and then committed the robberies.

As the man started to lose greater sums of money through gambling he gave up his job and drifted into petty crime, because he thought he could make more money that way.

He was arrested after a robbery in August 2011, along with two accomplices, and sentenced two months later. After two years he was granted day release privileges for good behaviour – and initially he used these days to visit his girlfriend in Ottakring.

However, he claims that he desperately needed money to pay back loan sharks he had borrowed large sums from and so in October 2013 and February 2013 he robbed banks in Vienna – simply by writing a note demanding money and slipping it to the bank teller. After a third bank robbery, in March 2014, he was arrested. He had stolen a total of around €38,000. 

After his arrest some of the money was found in his girlfriend’s flat, where unbeknownst to her he had sewn €12,000 into jackets. He had given her €6,000, which he told her he had won. She has since broken up with him.

He also admitted committing three other previously unsolved armed robberies, of a bank and two post offices – pocketing a total of €35,000.

The defendant accepted his sentence. "I want to serve my time, continue my education and find work again after my release," he said.


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Austrian people smuggler jailed over deaths of Syrians in minivan

An Austrian court on Monday sentenced a people smuggler to seven years in prison over the deaths of two Syrians who suffocated in the crammed minivan he was driving, Austria's news agency reported.

Austrian people smuggler jailed over deaths of Syrians in minivan

The bodies of the two men were discovered last October when Austrian authorities stopped and searched a van at the border with Hungary.

Thirty people in total were crammed in the vehicle, whose driver fled the scene but was later arrested in Latvia and extradited.

The 19-year-old Latvian was found guilty of people smuggling and causing fatal injuries, but was not found guilty of murder, APA reported.

READ MORE: Austrian police warn public about new ‘fake cops’ scam

He said he would accept the verdict, but the prosecution can still appeal it, APA said.

A court spokeswoman could not immediately be reached by AFP. 

Austria’s interior ministry announced in May that police had smashed a group believed to have smuggled tens of thousands of mostly Syrians, including the two found suffocated, from Hungary to Austria.

A total of 205 people suspected to be linked to the group have been arrested in central and eastern Europe, the ministry said.

Those smuggled, including children, were trying to reach western European countries, including Germany and France.

The October discovery of the dead men recalled a dire event in August 2015 when 71 people from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan suffocated in the back of an air-tight van where they had been hidden by people smugglers.

The bodies, including those of three children and a baby, were discovered in Austria but they had died while still on the other side of the border.

Almost four years later, the Hungarian courts sentenced their smugglers to life imprisonment.

The emotion aroused by that tragedy triggered a brief opening of the borders to hundreds of thousands of people wishing to reach Western Europe.

But Austria and other European countries have since fortified borders to stop people smuggling.