The Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland (OAG) has filed an indictment in the Federal Criminal Court against a 38-year-old Romanian citizen. It accuses him of blowing open two ATMs in the canton of Schaffhausen, in February 2021 in Wilchingen and in April 2021 in Buchberg.
The Romanian citizen, who is normally resident in Romania, has been indicted by the OAG in the Federal Criminal Court with the following offences: misuse of explosives and toxic gases with criminal intent (Art. 224 of the Swiss Criminal Code [SCC]), aggravated theft and attempt to commit the same offence (Art. 139 SCC, in conjunction with Art. 22 SCC), aggravated criminal damage (Art. 144 SCC), unlawful entry (Art. 186 SCC) and taking and using a vehicle (Art. 94 of the Road Traffic Act).
According to the indictment, the suspect was responsible for both explosions, in each case with accomplices. However, despite extensive investigations so far, it has not been possible to identify these persons. Nevertheless, in order to be able to conclude the preliminary proceedings against the Romanian citizen promptly, the OAG has separated the proceedings against him from the proceedings against the unknown accomplices.
Blowing open an ATM in February 2021 in Wilchingen
The suspect is charged, in February 2021, together with the as yet unidentified accomplices, with blowing open an ATM in Wilchingen and stealing cash amounting to CHF 37,380 and EUR 8,550. Due to the destructive power of the explosives used, the ATM and the multi-storey building in which it was located sustained damage estimated at around CHF 51,500.
Blowing open an ATM in April 2021 in Buchberg
The OAG alleges that two months later the suspect, together with as yet unidentified accomplices, blew open another ATM, this time in Buchberg. In this case, the perpetrators were unable to steal the cash held in the ATM. The explosion caused damage estimated at around CHF 223,000 to the ATM, the multi-storey residential and commercial building in which it was located and a vehicle parked nearby.
The explosions both in Wilchingen and in Buchberg were immensely powerful. According to the indictment, the suspect was willing to accept that detonating explosives in both cases would cause injuries to people and damage to other persons’ property and also acted with criminal intent. The investigations have shown that the highly powerful explosive charge could have caused far greater damage to property and that people could have been injured by flying masonry and shards of glass.
Conduct of the proceedings
The OAG has conducted the proceedings concerned because it has jurisdiction over explosives offences in terms of Articles 224-226ter SCC. In the course of the investigations, which began immediately, the Romanian national was successfully identified, made the subject of an international arrest warrant, and subsequently arrested in Hungary and extradited to Switzerland. The OAG wishes to thank fedpol, the Schaffhausen cantonal police, the Federal Office of Justice and the foreign authorities involved for their valuable cooperation in this matter, in particular as it has also made the rapid conclusion of the case possible.
The suspect has been in pre-trial detention since his extradition to Switzerland. On filing the indictment, the OAG requested the competent compulsory measures court to place the suspect in preventive detention.
With the filing of the indictment, the Federal Criminal Court in Bellinzona becomes responsible for answering any further media enquiries; this also applies to questions about the suspect’s detention status. As is customary, the OAG will make its proposals for sentencing known at the main hearing. The presumption of innocence applies until a legally binding judgment has been issued.
OAG’s criminal proceedings concerning ATM-related explosives offences in Switzerland
– In principle, the OAG has jurisdiction over offences involving attacks on ATMs whenever explosives are used. In relation all other cases – for example, where gas or tools such as crowbars or circular saws are used, the cantons are responsible for investigating and prosecuting the offences.
– In the last two to three years, the OAG has noted an increase in the number of cases that it has had to prosecute involving the use of explosives to blow open ATMs.
– The OAG is currently conducting several criminal investigations into around 40 such cases.
– The perpetrators often operate in several different cantons or indeed countries. Conducting the proceedings thus requires a significant amount of time and resources. In part this is because many investigations must be conducted through international mutual assistance.
– Despite these challenges, the OAG, working with fedpol and other partners in Switzerland and abroad, has repeatedly succeeded in identifying the perpetrators. The first conviction in a case of blowing open an ATM was secured at the end of 2021 (court decision: SK.2021.45, report available on the website of the Federal Criminal Court. The judgment, issued by the court of first instance, is not yet legally binding.).