‘Robin Hood Banker’ Steals From Rich Clients to Help the Poor

Gilberto Baschiera, the former manager of a bank in Forni di Sopra, a small town in Italy’s Dolomite Alps, has been nicknamed the “Robin Hood Banker” for taking around €1 million ($1.15 million) from rich savers’ accounts, over several years, to help poor people qualify for loans.

It all started in 2009, at the the height of the global financial crisis, when banks’ criteria for credit approval assessments changed. It was no longer about an overall assessment of the customer, but about the reliability of the client, which was established at the bank desk, on a computer. So when a local man came to Gilberto Baschiera’s office asking for a small loan, and the bank manager saw that he didn’t qualify according to the new criteria, he felt sorry for him. Instead of turning him away like most bank managers would have done, Baschiera took some money out of the account of a wealthy client, and added it to the poor man’s account, so that he would qualify. But this was only the beginning of Gilberto Baschiera’s career as a modern-day Robin Hood of the banking world.

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It didn’t take long for news of the bank manager’s generosity to spread through Forni di Sopra, a relatively small community of around 1,000 people, and other locals started turning to him for aid with qualifying for loans. He helped them just like he did that first one, by taking money out of rich clients’ accounts, but told them all to repay these sums quickly, so he could cover his tracks. They all happily agreed, but not all of them repaid their debts, leaving Baschiera exposed. After seven years, his exploits as the “Robin Hood Banker” were discovered, and he was sentenced to two years in prison for his crimes.

Luckily for our hero, the fact that he didn’t take one cent of the money he siphoned from rich clients’ accounts for himself, and that this was his first criminal offence made a huge difference. As part of a plea deal, Gilberto Baschiera received a suspended sentence, and will not be serving any actual jail time. Still, his story did not have a happy end. According the his lawyer, Roberto Mete, Baschiera lost both his job and his house, which was confiscated by the state.

“He thinks he wouldn’t do it again,” Mr Mete told BBC. “He was convinced he could help people. But now he’s lost his job and his own home”.

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“He wanted to help people who couldn’t access loans the normal way,” Baschiera’s lawyer added. “He created a kind of shadow financing system, he trusted that the people he was helping were going to be able to pay back, and some of them didn’t. He explained to authorities why he had done it, and that he thought the people he was helping would manage to pay back the money”.

In an interview with Italian newspaper La Repubblica, the Robin Hood Banker said that the banking system “abandons pensioners with the minimum and young people without resources”, adding that “I have always thought that in addition to protecting savers, our task was to help those in need”. Italian media reported that Baschiera called all the clients whose accounts he siphoned money from to explain his actions.

The generous bank manager said that if he could go back in time, he would probably not do the same thing again, because the price he paid for it was “too high”.