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by Euro Reporter
2010-05-12 08:07:07
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French anti-hero tells court that he is ‘no Robin Hood’ at heist trial

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 pay check 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.

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'No austerity plan', Sarkozy tells unions


France is not implementing an austerity plan as fellow EU members have done, French President Nicolas Sarkozy told union leaders gathered at the Elysée presidential palace on Monday. “Some people would like to see a similar response in [France’s] fiscal policy,” the French president said in reference to austerity measures being enforced in Greece and Spain, but countered that he himself was “against this opinion”. “We should not implement a stringent policy, but a responsible policy. It’s our credibility that is at stake,” Sarkozy added.

Sarkozy’s comments on Monday came at a much-awaited “social summit” to review recent government reforms aimed at combating the economic crisis and limiting its impact domestically. The talks were scheduled months ago, but a recently announced public spending freeze threatened to overshadow the summit. Last Thursday, French Prime Minister François Fillon announced that the government would freeze public spending between 2011 and 2013 to bring its deficit to within the three percent required by the EU.

Unions fear the government will scrap welfare measures that shield low-income families from the harsher effects of the economic downturn. Before the meeting, France’s main unions CGT, CFDT, Unsa, FSU and SUD issued a joint statement warning against “deficit reduction measures that would lead to greater social inequality”.

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French court opposes Iranian engineer’s extradition to US


A French court Wednesday advised against extraditing an Iranian engineer to the United States, where he is accused of buying sensitive technology and illegally exporting it to Iran. Majid Kakavand, 37, is wanted for trial in the US on charges of violating export laws on dual-use technology that could be used for military purposes.

But the Paris court of appeal said it was against extradition, after prosecutors noted last month that the French arms agency DGA had concluded the electronics components purchased by Kakavand could not be considered potentially dangerous. "The allegations by US authorities were not punishable in France at that time," the lead prosecutor told the hearing attended by US justice officials.
  
US authorities accuse Kakavand of buying measuring instruments and the components from companies in New Jersey, Alabama and California through a Malaysian firm and exporting them illegally to Iran. Kakavand was arrested at Paris airport on March 20 last year. Iran is demanding his release. Kakavand's case comes as France is seeking the release from Iran of 24-year-old French academic Clotilde Reiss, who has been tried on charges of acting against Iranian national security.
 

       
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