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Extortionist arrested in Graz after murder threats

A 24-year-old man has been arrested after demanding that a woman in Carinthia pay him €310,000, or he would kill her two children.

Extortionist arrested in Graz after murder threats
Photo: Paul Gillingwater

He also told her he had planted bombs in and around her house.

She told the police, and special ops officers were able to arrest the man when she went to the agreed place to hand over the money.

The 53-year-old woman from Völkermarkt received an email on November 30th from an unknown sender, demanding she give him the money otherwise he would kill her two adult children.

He said he had left three explosive devices – in her house and the surrounding area – which he could detonate at any time. He also told her that she was under constant observation, and seemed to know a lot about her house and her family.

Gottlieb Türk, head of the Carinthian police service, said the woman was shocked and scared when she received the email. The man told her that she had to drop off the money in two instalments on Saturday night – at an address in Graz and another in Völkermarkt. “He gave very precise instructions about when and where the money was to be deposited,” Türk said. When she told the police they decided to lie in wait for the man in central Graz. When he turned up at the arranged meeting place, they arrested him.

He turned out to be a young unemployed man, also from Völkermarkt, who knew the woman and her family but was not a close friend. He told the police that he needed money and assumed that she had access to large sums of cash. It’s not clear why he decided to ask for a specific sum of €310,000, or why the money had to be handed over in Graz, in the state of Styria.

He managed to conceal his location and identity very well when sending the email. He has no previous criminal record. He’s now being held in custody in Klagenfurt.

For members

LIVING IN AUSTRIA

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.

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