Support The Moscow Times!

'AIDS Gang' in Robbery Spree

ROME -- Three men with AIDS who brazenly rob banks knowing they cannot be jailed under Italian law called Wednesday for understanding and more state help or they will strike again.


"We haven't hurt anyone in any of the bank raids," Ferdinando Attanasio of the group, dubbed the "AIDS gang" by Italian media, told Turin's La Stampa newspaper, after meeting reporters at the northern city's Amadeo di Savoia hospital for infectious diseases.


"We rob because we are forced to. To eat. To keep our problem a live issue," Attanasio said. "Since 1989, when I discovered I had the disease, I have been waiting for a pension. Every time I ask, they say, 'Wait a little bit longer.' ... In the meantime I would have died of hunger."


The men rob banks in the Turin area unmasked and in broad daylight and without worrying about security cameras.


The gang were detained after a robbery Friday but were freed because a 1993 Italian law rules out jail for those in the final stages of a terminal illness. Full-blown AIDS sufferers fall specifically within this category.


Criminals with HIV are kept in prison until their illness becomes serious enough to be defined as "incompatible with prison life," when they are released.


Police and judicial authorities have urged the Justice Ministry to reconsider the law.


"They know they can't be imprisoned so they take no precautions to hide their identities. They robbed the last bank in full view of the security cameras, armed only with a pocket knife," police spokesman Sergio Molino said.


The gang made 20 million lire ($12,000) from the latest holdup and managed to hide the loot before police arrested them after identifying them as the culprits on security videos.


Attanasio maintained that the three were not criminals and that the holdups were done out of desperation.


"When I go to rob a bank we do not laugh out loud as some have written. I am terrified of dying like everybody else, terrified that a policeman is going to shoot me," he said.


"But must I beg? Must I be taken for a ride? All I know is that recently I have at least lived with dignity."


Fellow gang member Antonio Lamarra called for "work, a place to live and help," saying the state was happy to pay wages and protection to former Mafia turncoats who had murdered people.


"Give me a job, a place to live and a cure ... and I'll stop robbing. Otherwise, I'll continue," Sergio Magnis, the gang's third man, told Rome's La Repubblica.

… we have a small favor to ask. As you may have heard, The Moscow Times, an independent news source for over 30 years, has been unjustly branded as a "foreign agent" by the Russian government. This blatant attempt to silence our voice is a direct assault on the integrity of journalism and the values we hold dear.

We, the journalists of The Moscow Times, refuse to be silenced. Our commitment to providing accurate and unbiased reporting on Russia remains unshaken. But we need your help to continue our critical mission.

Your support, no matter how small, makes a world of difference. If you can, please support us monthly starting from just $2. It's quick to set up, and you can be confident that you're making a significant impact every month by supporting open, independent journalism. Thank you.

Once
Monthly
Annual
Continue
paiment methods
Not ready to support today?
Remind me later.

Read more