A slightly different story from the lost and found office.
Lost property offices often write sentimental stories. Little boys crying and hugging their teddy bears. Or lovers who, touched, slip their wedding ring, which they believed to be lost forever, over their finger. An employee of the Zurich cantonal police, however, decided to write a completely different story: a thriller – with himself in the leading role. As a villain.
It is a morning in February 2014 when the officer changes sides: the officer becomes a thief. The accused is a clerk with the canton police and is on early duty at Zurich Airport this morning.
It’s after 9:30 am when the police officer takes over a wallet that an American woman lost on the airport premises. In the wallet are cards, slips of paper and 420 US dollars in cash. The police officer should actually put the wallet and the cash away separately and then try to locate the American woman or pass the wallet on to the lost and found office at Zurich Airport. But he does something else.
The accused pulls the dollar bills out of the small black wallet and puts them in his pocket. There is no single dropout.
According to the penal order issued by the public prosecutor, the accused is accused of three further thefts. In a late shift in October 2019, the policeman is said to have become a thief again and stole cash from a wallet that had been handed in at the police station. This time it was 327 euros and 21 cents.
The next act followed a week later. The accused grabbed a 50 euro banknote that had been handed in at the counter and hid it under a drawer on the desk to later mix it with his own cash. A few months later, the police officer is said to have stolen another 100 euros from a wallet handed in at the post.
The case from Zurich Airport is reminiscent of one from Basel. Between 2015 and 2016, small amounts of cash repeatedly disappeared from the lost and found office of the Basel Department of Justice and Security (JSD). The total damage amounted to 10,000 francs.
It quickly became clear: the perpetrator is an insider, i.e. an official who works in the lost and found office. In contrast to the Zurich canton police officer, the Basel perpetrator has not yet been convicted – but stopped. The JSD has tightened the surveillance measures in the lost and found office. Since then, no more cash has disappeared from the Basel lost and found office.
Incidents like these are rare, but SBB is also aware of individual cases in which employees have stolen lost property. SBB would analyze all cases and take appropriate measures, says SBB media spokesman Martin Meier. There is no official number. Victims can assert their claim at the SBB claims center.
To prevent theft, all items found are registered and scanned and forwarded in special, locked boxes. The central registration takes place in Bern, but found items can be handed in and received at all SBB counters. “If there is a notice of loss or an owner is found, the item will be sent to the desired pick-up station,” Meier continues.
In contrast to the SBB, according to media spokeswoman Daniela Tobler, the Zürcher Verkehrsbetriebe (VBZ) has never had theft by employees of the lost and found office. There is also no video surveillance inside the lost and found office. A security camera for building surveillance, on the other hand, is installed outside.
In the case of the Zurich airport thief, the public prosecutor’s office proposed in the penalty order of April 4 that the accused be fined CHF 12,000. In addition, there is a violation fine of 1,000 francs and the assumption of 733 francs in procedural costs by the accused. He has waived an objection. The judgment is thus final.
Criminal order of April 4, 2022, final decision on July 12, 2022.