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(en) German Hamburg, 'Robin Hoods' Give Poor a Taste of the High Life

Date Tue, 09 May 2006 09:22:15 +0300


A GANG of anarchist Robin Hood-style thieves, who dress as superheroes and steal
expensive food from exclusive restaurants and delicatessens to give to the poor,
are being hunted by police in the German city of Hamburg. The gang members seemingly
take delight in injecting humour into their raids, which rely on sheer numbers and
the confusion caused by their presence. After they plundered Kobe beef fillets,
champagne and smoked salmon from a gourmet store on the exclusive Elbastrasse, they
presented the cashier with a bouquet of flowers before making their getaway.
The latest robbery is part of a pattern over the past several months,
suggesting that the thieves deliberately set out to highlight what they
perceive as the inequality inherent in German society.

However, the authorities do not agree. Bodo Franz, a police spokesman,
said: "They get off feeling they are just like Robin Hood. There are
about 30 in the group. But whatever their motives, they are thieves,
plain and simple."

Carsten Sievers, the manager of a luxury supermarket in the wealthy
Blankenese area of Hamburg, recently watched the robbers run off with
trolleys full of expensive foodstuffs, including Kobe beef which, at
more than £100 a pound, is always on their illicit shopping list.

In another recent swoop, the gang emptied a groaning buffet table in a
top restaurant into sacks, while one of their number held up a sign
saying. "The fat years are over" - the title of a hit film currently
doing the rounds in Germany.

In internet statements, the gang have made a point of saying their booty
is distributed to Hartz IV recipients - the poorest of Germany's
long-term unemployed. The benefit is named after the disgraced
Volkswagen personnel director Peter Hartz who, before he lost his job
with the car-maker in a prostitutes-and-bribes scandal, devised the new
means-testing which is loathed and derided by society's most
economically challenged.

When the gang robbed the gourmet store in April - triggering a massive
police investigation that cost £20,000 in taxpayers' money without an
arrest being made - they left a note behind saying: "Without the
abilities of the superheroes to help them, it would be impossible for
ordinary people to survive in the city of the millionaires."

Police say they are concentrating their investigation on a loose
collective of anarchists and malcontents called "Hamburg in Vain", to
which they believe the superheroes belong. But they admit there is a
certain panache and skill about their robberies. indicating a strong
criminal element as well.

The gang are also behind black market cinema tickets which they
distribute free to the poor, and they have printed leaflets telling
passengers how to dodge ticket inspectors on the city's underground and
buses.

Mr Franz said: "They try to make crime fun but are politically motivated."

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