I'm no Robin Hood, French security guard tells trial

11th May 2010, Comments 0 comments

A French armoured van driver who became an Internet hero when he made off with millions in cash told his trial Tuesday that he was no Robin Hood but simply upset with his boss.

Toni Musulin, a 39-year-old former employee of the Swedish security firm Loomis, faces a three-year jail term for the November 5, 2009 theft in the central city of Lyon.

"They say that I'm Robin Hood, but I'm not. I'm just a normal guy," Musulin told the opening of the trial. "I had problems with my boss."

"It's always the little guys who have to take it, so I decided to rebel," the burly, dark-haired driver said, describing the theft as an act of revenge.

Musulin surrendered to police in Monaco 11 days after he abandoned his armoured van and made off with 11.6 million euros (15 million dollars) stuffed in dozens of sacks.

Police found the empty armoured vehicle in Lyon hours after the heist and two days later discovered nine million euros in a lock-up garage, but 2.5 million are still missing.

During his testimony, Musulin denied hiding the missing money and suggested the millions may have been lost when he was loading them in his getaway truck or stolen at the garage.

"I didn't take the money. I don't have the money," he told the judge, who remarked that, oddly, only large bills of 500, 200 and 100 euros were lost.

"I was throwing the bags and they were dropping anywhere. They slid, because they were plastic bags. It was hard work, I really had a tough time," Musulin said, sparking laughter from the public gallery.

Musulin complained bitterly of being under-paid during the 10 years he worked at Loomis and said his employer often made mistakes on his paycheck.

"In the end, I did something that I shouldn't have, and for that, I have my bosses to thank," he said.

The accused took his seat in the dock in the packed courtroom after his lawyers failed on Monday to delay the trial over objections to the manner of the suspect's transfer from Monaco to France.

The defence argued that its challenge should have been heard before the trial, but the judge rejected this and prosecutor Nicolas Hennebelle described Musulin's lawyers as simply "desperate."

The trial is scheduled to wrap up later Tuesday or Wednesday and a verdict is expected to be handed down without deliberation.

Musulin is also on trial for insurance fraud related to the 2009 theft of his Ferrari sports car, which could land him in jail for five years.

The driver declared the Ferrari stolen in April 2009, according to investigators. He emptied his bank accounts and his apartment before the security van heist.

Musulin earned less than 2,000 euros a month in the Loomis job, yet had managed to buy the Ferrari.

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

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

"The World is Yours: Tony Best Driver 2009" page drew 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.

© 2010 AFP

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