A French bank robber hailed as a hero for striking back at the financial establishment amid the worst of the recession admitted in court today he was motivated by personal revenge not political altruism.
He was the anti-hero of the recession: a calm and collected criminal who dealt a knock-out blow to the financial establishment on behalf of the exploited, angry masses. That, at least, was the verdict of Tony Musulin’s fans.
When he testified at the beginning of his trial today, however, the French security guard who drove off with €11.6m in his van last year told a rather different story.
“People told me I was Robin Hood, but I’m not, I’m normal. I had a problem with my boss. It was not the right choice,” the 39-year-old told a court in Lyon.
Musulin, a former driver for the Swedish security firm Loomis, faces up to five years in prison for the theft last November of money intended for the city’s Banque de France branch. He is also accused of attempted fraud.
The heist, which triggered a vast manhunt and was resolved only when the disgruntled employee handed himself into police in Monaco 11 days later, occurred when France was feeling the full effect of the financial crisis.
His theft, carried out seamlessly and peacefully, earned Musulin a legion of fans who declared him a hero of the people. Internet groups sprang up, T-shirts were made and bumper stickers reading ‘Tony Musulin: Without Hate or Violence’ sold like hotcakes.
Their devotion lessened noticeably after police found the majority of the loot in a safe-box in Lyon. Then, when Musulin handed himself in and claimed to know nothing of the remaining €2.5m, his popularity plummeted.
At his trial today, Musulin insisted he did not know where the rest of the money was. His explanation then confirmed the theory that he had acted for revenge on his employers – with no indication that his crime had had any wider motivations.
“As I was single I couldn’t have holiday during the summer, they didn’t pay me all my hours, we were not respected,” he told the court. “I respect the law but at a certain moment I crossed over to the other side because of all these injustices.”
As the verdict is being expected he could face up to five years in jail.