Bank robber gets to keep the cash: can this be right?

ViennaMichael Gruber/APA/Press Association Images

An Austrian bank robber has been stunned to learn that he is getting to keep £51,000 of the £150,000 he stole 19 years ago - because everyone else involved refuses to take it.

So how can this be right?

The robbery

According to a report in the Daily Mail, Otto Neuman, now aged 63, was a bank manager at Erste Bank in Vienna's Doebling district at the time. He had fallen into financial difficulties, and hatched a plan to steal £150,000 - as well as gold bars and coins. He staged a fake bank robbery at his branch, and planned to use the proceeds to pay off his debts.

The gang was rounded up shortly afterwards - although by then, only £51,000 of the money could be recovered. Neuman was jailed for three and a half years.

The money

The money then sat in the Justice Ministry for almost two decades, because nobody seemed to want it. The bank said it had been refunded in full by its insurers, so wasn't entitled to the cash.

The insurer, meanwhile, had already taken the gold bars and coins (which had increased dramatically in price and was worth far more than when it had been stolen - so it covered the insurer's costs without them needing to touch the cash).

Neuman's lawyer confirmed that he had been asked for his client's bank details - so the money could be given back to him. A shocked Neuman provided the details, and to his surprise he was paid.

In the UK

This may be how the rules work in Austria, but it doesn't work like that in the UK. The Proceeds of Crime Act of 2002 was designed to ensure criminals cannot profit from their crimes.

Once they are convicted, a confiscation order can be made by the courts to retrieve any assets they have in order to repay the money owed, so that when they have served their punishment, they cannot continue to enjoy the fruits of their criminal activities.

The money is then ploughed back into crime-fighting through local schemes and charities - or used to compensate the victims of crime.

It's arguably a better way to have spent £51,000 than giving it back to the bank robber. But what do you think? Who should have got to keep the cash? Let us know in the comments.

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Bank robber gets to keep the cash: can this be right?

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