An Italian banker dubbed “Robin Hood” for his scheme to shift more than $1 million from wealthy clients to allow low-income families to get loans will now be getting off without jail time.
Gilberto Baschiera’s scheme played out in a small Italian town during the global economic downturn of 2009. He worked as a bank manager and found that the economic crisis was hitting low-income residents the hardest, with the bank no longer giving loans to them. As the Washington Post reported, Baschiera decided to take matters into his own hands.
So he began diverting money from the accounts of wealthy clients into residents of the small town who were seeking loans but didn’t have the assets to qualify. In all, he moved more than $1 million over the course of seven years, the report noted.
“He wanted to help people who couldn’t access loans the normal way,” said his lawyer, Roberto Mete (via the BBC).
Mete explained that Baschiera set up a “shadow financial system” that grew massive over the years, allowing him to transfer money where needed so people otherwise squeezed by Italy’s tightening financial regulations were able to get loans they needed to buy homes or start businesses.
Authorities finally caught on in 2016, when some of the clients he had helped to secure loans defaulted.
“He trusted that the people he was helping were going to be able to pay back – and some of them didn’t,” Mete said.
As news of Baschiera’s arrest gained attention, he became something of a folk hero in Italy and was even dubbed “Robin Hood” for his plan to take money from the rich to help the poor. Others rallied behind him for helping out the average person at a time when large and irresponsible banks were being bailed out with taxpayer money.
“I have always thought that in addition to protecting savers, our task was to help those in need,” Baschiera told an Italian newspaper (via the BBC).
Prosecutors were lenient as well. Because the “Robin Hood” banker never actually took any of the money for himself or his own benefit — and because he was a first-time offender who had never been in trouble with the law before — prosecutors decided to cut a deal that allowed him to plead guilty but included no jail time.
Robin Hood of the Alps pays for costly mistake after banking on trust https://t.co/sgcOYjMgl6— The Guardian (@guardian) October 4, 2018
While he may have avoided jail, it was not an entirely happy ending for the Italian “Robin Hood” banker. Gilberto Baschiera has lost his home and his job after the conviction.