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article imageGerman court convicts pensioners of kidnapping financial adviser

By Chris Dade     Mar 23, 2010 in Crime
A court in Bavaria in Southeastern Germany on Tuesday convicted four pensioners of kidnapping a financial adviser they blame for the loss of money they had invested in the U.S. property market.
It was in June last year that now 57-year-old James Amburn, a U.S.-born financial adviser living in Western Germany, was taken from his home by two retired couples and a fifth person and driven 280 miles (450 km) to a holiday home one of the couples owned, near Lake Chiemsee in Bavaria.
The five pensioners wanted Mr Amburn to return the money some or all of them had allegedly lost as a result of his advice and held him against his will until he agreed to their demands.
But, as the London Times reported in June, it was when the financial adviser agreed that he would arrange for the return of their losses - totaling €2.5m (£2.25m; $3.4m) - that he was able to alert a Swiss bank to his plight through a fax message that was meant to be authorizing the transfer of money to the unhappy investors.
Members of the German counter-terrorist unit eventually arrived at the property where Mr Amburn was being held and freed him.
Describing his four-day ordeal Mr Amburn, who was unsuccessful in one attempt to escape his captors, said:As I was letting myself into my front door I was assaulted from behind and hit hard. Then they bound me with masking tape until I looked like a mummy. I thought I was a dead man
Mr Amburn was put in the trunk of a car for the journey from his home in Speyer to the holiday home owned by Ronald Kaspar, 74, and his wife Sieglinde, 80, and he reportedly said when giving evidence to the court in Traunstein:I was completely panicked. I didn't know what they had planned. I thought they were taking me into the woods where they would shoot me
During the journey to Bavaria, where the Guardian says he was held in a "purpose-built prison", Mr Amburn sustained two broken ribs as he tried to escape the quintet of pensioners, one of whom faces trial at a later date after having been too ill to face the court with his fellow defendants.
That fifth defendant is believed to be 67 years old and may be the husband of one of the two women convicted of Mr Amburn's kidnapping rather than an individual without a partner/wife.
Ronald Kaspar received a six-year prison sentence following his conviction for hostage-taking and grievous bodily harm.
A sentence of either four years, according to the BBC, or five years, according to the Guardian, was handed down to a man identified now as Willi D, aged 61. His convictions were for false imprisonment and grievous bodily harm.
Sieglinde Kaspar and another woman, possibly the wife of Willi D and possibly named Iris, aged 66 or 67, were given suspended prison sentences said to be between 18 and 21 months long.
After the defendants' argument that Mr Amburn traveled with them to Bavaria because they had invited him to join them on holiday was rejected the judge, named as Karl Niedermeier by the Telegraph, told the guilty quartet that their actions were "a spectacular case of vigilante justice/self-justice". They were told that they could not take the law in to their own hands.
Harald Baumgaertl was one of the defense lawyers at the pensioners' trial and he is quoted by the BBC as saying:The problem is that most of the people who gave the investor money saw dollars in front of their eyes.
Now they see nothing. It's important that people are very careful who they give their money to
Two people from Traunstein, the name of both a town and district in Bavaria, when asked for their thoughts on the pensioners' actions, responded:Maybe they were motivated by the fact that, overall, the press was saying there were so many bad financial investors around. Perhaps that made them believe they were on the right side of the law
and:They were very silly. But I can understand the people who kidnapped the man. It was not correct that they lost so much money
When reporting on the beginning of the trial of the pensioners in February the BBC indicated that a number of people have filed complaints against James Amburn for alleged breach of trust. An investigation in to Mr Amburn's business activities was already under way at that point.
Please note that every effort has been made, by scrutinizing reports filed at the time of Mr Amburn's kidnapping, at the commencement of his kidnappers' trial, and the conclusion of the trial, to establish clearly the identity of the three people who assisted Ronald Kaspar and his seventh wife, Sieglinde, in the crime for which the Kaspars appear to have been the instigators. Unfortunately those reports are even now conflicting.
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