French van heist anti-hero surrenders in Monaco

17th November 2009, Comments 0 comments

A French security van driver who became an Internet folk hero after making off with millions rode a motorbike up to a Monaco police station and handed himself in, officials said.

MONACO - Toni Musulin told astonished officers in the wealthy Mediterranean city state that he was the man French police were hunting for stealing 49 sacks of cash from his own vehicle in the city of Lyon nearly two weeks ago.

The unshaven 39-year-old turned up, in a confused and fatigued state, with a rented motorbike but minus the two million euros still missing after the daring November 5 heist.

"Why he came to Monaco remains a mystery which he did not deign to explain to us," said the principality's chief detective Andre Muhlberger.

"Perhaps he didn't know he was in a state which is sovereign and independent from France?"

Musulin's armoured vehicle was found abandoned -- and missing 11.6 million euros (17.2 million dollars) -- in Lyon on November 5.

The driver had disappeared, along with the vehicle and cash collected from a Bank of France building, while his two co-workers from the Swedish security firm Loomis had gone back inside their company's premises.

Two days later, police found nine million euros in a nearby lock-up garage.

Investigators said they were worried the suspect, who has family roots in the former Yugoslavia, might have fled to the Balkans with the rest of the cash, and Interpol issued an alert to its 185 member states asking for help.

But Musulin finally turned up in Monaco, which lies about 500 kilometres (310 miles) south of Lyon. He was quickly handed over to French authorities in the Jardin Exotique park on the border between the two states.

Musulin was not arrested by Monaco police because they had received no international warrant, a police source said, adding that he was escorted to the border without handcuffs because he agreed to be questioned by French police.

Because there was no violence during the heist, Musulin faces a maximum of three years in jail if convicted of the theft.

The theft rapidly turned the van driver into an Internet sensation, with several pages on Facebook and elsewhere appearing overnight to praise France's new anti-hero.

"The World is Yours: Tony Best Driver 2009" page has been drawing a steady stream of comments describing the theft as "the heist of the century."

Facebook users created a "Tony Musulin for president" page, while members of the "Tony Musulin fan club" said he was a "hero" for his "no guns, no violence" approach.

Musulin earned less than 2,000 euros a month in the Loomis job he had held for 10 years, media reports said, yet had managed to buy a Ferrari sports car.

He lived a quiet life in Villeurbanne, near Lyon, where he liked to pump iron at the local gym.

A colleague at Loomis told French radio that he was "slightly odd" and always complaining about being badly paid and warning that one day "the bosses are going to pay."

Musulin declared the Ferrari stolen in April, according to investigators. He had also emptied his bank accounts and his apartment before the heist.

Herve Clerc/AFP/Expatica

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