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 hearing 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 ex-driver said, explaining that the theft was 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 euros are still missing.

The trial could shed some light on the fate of the loot and on Musulin's nearly two weeks on the run, which included stops in Italy before ending up in the Mediterranean millionaire's playground Monaco.

Musulin testified that his employer often made mistakes on his paycheck and complained bitterly of being under-paid. "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 he had held for 10 years, 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 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.

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."

© 2010 AFP

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