PARIS, May 12, 2010 -- A French armored car driver accused of stealing $15 million admitted in court that he did it to punish his boss, but the driver insisted he didn't know what happened to $3.2 million of the loot that was never recovered.
"Everybody says I am Robin Hood, but I'm not. I'm just a normal person," Toni Musulin, 39, told the court at the opening of the trial in Lyon, France, Tuesday.
After Musulin admitted to the crime, a judge fined him $57,000 and sentenced him to three years in prison. The prosecution had sought a five-year prison term, and this morning the Lyon prosecutor's office has said it would lodge an appeal.
"For me, the case is not over. For the justice system, the case is not over. I can assure you that Mr. Musulin will not be able to enjoy in peace the 2.5 million euros (almost $3.2 million) he has or he thinks he has put in a safe place somewhere in Eastern Europe," Lyon prosecutor Marc Desert told reporters outside the courtroom last night after the verdict.
Musulin is of Serbo-Croatian origin and has family ties in Eastern Europe.
Musulin gained notoriety and online fans when he vanished last November in Lyon behind the wheel of his armored van with 11.6 million euros (nearly $15 million) in cash inside following a routine pickup with two other security workers from a branch of the Banque de France.
A website "tonymusulin.fr" even sold mugs, pins and T-shirts showing a photo of Musulin with the caption "Tony Musulin, Best Driver 2009."
But a few days later, French police received a tip and recovered 9.1 million euros (close to $11.6 million) inside a van parked in a garage Musulin had rented in Lyon. Musulin became the target of a massive manhunt, and 11 days after the heist, Musulin turned himself in to police in Monaco.
Musulin appeared before a Lyon court to answer charges of theft and fraud attempt after he allegedly made a false car insurance claim involving a Ferrari he had bought prior to the theft.
"I had a problem with my boss. He had been stealing from me for three years. I wanted to make him pay this way," he said, explaining that the theft was an act of revenge and his way of denouncing work conditions at his security firm Loomis.
"It was not the right decision," said Musulin, who wore a gray jacket, a black pullover and sported a graying beard which contrasted with the clean-shaven pictures shown in the press over the past few months.
The big issue everyone had in mind was to hear from Musulin about the missing money. Musulin has always claimed that he did not know the whereabouts of the cash and today was no different.
Toni Musulin Insists He Did Not Stash $3.2 Million
"I did not take the money, I don't have the money," Musulin told the court. "I don't have any secret. There is no dirty money or nothing like this."
He explained to the court that he had not been able to load all of the money in the van he had rented. "I was throwing the bags and they would not fall straight. ... They were sliding since these were plastic bags. It was a drag, my weapon kept falling," he said, prompting laughter from the courtroom.
The president of the court expressed surprise that the missing bags contained "precisely bills of 500, 200 and 100 euros, the biggest notes."
"This does not break your heart?" the president ironically asked Musulin.
"If some things are missing, certain points need to be verified," Musulin replied, hinting that the owner of the garage could have taken some of the money before the police found it.
After dropping off the money, Musulin said decided to leave for Italy. "I started in Turin. Then I went to Rome to visit," he said.
"Is it nice?" the president asked. "Yes, it was not bad. I hate pasta," Musulin said, making the audience laugh again.
"I thought the money would not be found," he continued. "It made me a bit mad when I found out it was the case. I stayed in Naples telling myself that it was a flop. I did not know what to do. Either I kept running all my life, or I turned myself in. But I did not have the choice. I had no money left to keep running," he said.