Two Italians acquitted of bank robbery charges

Nova Gorica – The Nova Gorica Court acquitted on Wednesday two men from Sicily who had been charged with robbing two banks in Slovenia in August and October 2020 after part of the evidence was excluded. Giacomo Pappalardi and Mario Piacente were released from detention where they had been since October 2020. The prosecution will appeal.

Judge Darinka Kogoj said that Pappalardi, 44, and Piacente, 27, had been proven to have engaged in preparation for the robberies, which is however not a crime.

She said their guilt could not be proven after part of the evidence was excluded, namely GPS data about a vehicle rented in Italy before the robberies for which the Italian prosecution had given the police no order to obtain or use.

Prosecutor Petra Poberaj said she would appeal the ruling. For Piacente, she had proposed seven years in prison, and six years for Pappalardi.

Their defence teams had meanwhile proposed acquittal, with Pappalardi saying today that the court gave “a lesson in criminal and constitutional law”.

The court referred the affected banks, NKBM and Deželna Banka, to a litigation.

Several persons are suspected of being involved with the robberies but the police could not say with certainty who was at the banks during the robberies based on video surveillance footage.

The first robbery took place on 31 August in Dobrova and the second on 1 October in Dutovlje, both practically just across the border with Italy.

Both were executed by two men wearing face masks and speaking Italian, who threatened bank employees, with a knife in the first case and with an object resembling a gun in the second, stealing EUR 35,000 and EUR 7,000, respectively.

Things went sour while the robbers were preparing for a third robbery in the border town of Kanal, as Nova Gorica police arrested Pappalardi and Piacente with the help of Italian criminal police in the town of Solkan.

A third suspect, also from Sicily, was identified to have taken part in both robberies, but returned to southern Italy a day after Pappalardi and Piacente were arrested. All three have a criminal record of similar crimes in Italy, so Slovenian police suspected they were a criminal ring specialised in bank robberies.