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As Spain’s Economy Falters, Bank Robberies Rise

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The 52-year-old contractor was desperate to save his business. Unable to pay his workers and facing bankruptcy, Ausencio C. G., as Spanish police identify him, went to the bank — but not for a loan.

Covering his fingertips with surgical tape and wearing a ski mask and a reflective jacket to blur his image on security cameras, the contractor reportedly stole 80,000 euros from four banks before getting caught as he tried his fifth stickup near Barcelona in February.

That is a total of about $115,000 — half of which came from his first heist, and was used to pay his workers, according to what he told the police.

Now in prison awaiting trial, the contractor, who is from Lleida, a town about 150 kilometers west of here, is reported to be part of one group that is busier than ever in this recession-battered country: bank robbers.

Indeed, with unemployment approaching 20 percent, the highest in Europe, and the overall economy expected to shrink by 4.2 percent this year, bank robberies in 2009 are running 20 percent ahead of 2007’s pace, according to the Spanish Banking Association.

“In recent months, it has become apparent that Spain is suffering from an increase in bank robberies,†said Francisco Pérez Abellán, head of the criminology department at the University of Camilo José Cela in Madrid. “We are seeing people committing offenses through necessity, first-time offenders who can no longer continue to maintain their lifestyle and so turn to crime.â€

In the Barcelona area, only 7 percent of bank robbers were first-time offenders in 2008, according to José Luis Trapero, the chief of investigations for the regional police squad. That figure has jumped to 20 percent so far this year.

Though bank executives argue that there is no proven link between the falling economy and the rise in bank robberies, many Spaniards say they think the trends are more than coincidental — including the union that represents bank workers. It recently persuaded the Spanish government to classify bank robbery as an occupational hazard.

“There’s unemployment, there’s hunger and there’s money in the banks, and the three factors combine,†said José Manuel Murcia, head of health in the workplace for the financial sector of one of Spain’s largest trade unions, the CC.OO (Confederación Sindical de Comisiones Obreras). “Banks are denying credit, so companies are having problems, which creates more unemployment.â€

So will this trend spread?

The banks steal from the taxpayer and the taxpayer just takes back what's be borrowed.

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Lots of "spaghetti western" movies were shot in Spain - sounds like these days they are shooting real guns instead :o

But don't worry... JCT says:


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