BANK BANDIT SENTENCED: Man who stole 70,000 kr. in first-ever heist in Svalbard gets 14 months in prison, 60,000 kr. fine


A Russian man in his late 20s who gained worldwide infamy by committing the first-ever armed bank robbery in Longyearbyen at the end of December last year has been sentenced to 14 months in prison and ordered to pay 60,000 kroner to the three bank employees he held at gunpoint.

The man has not decided if he will appeal.

“The verdict is considerably milder than the prosecutor’s claim, but nevertheless somewhat higher than we had hoped for,” Ulf E. Hansen, the defendant’s attorney, told NRK.

The man arrived in Longyearbyen a few days before the robbery because he was suffering from depression and read it is easy to obtain weapons in Svalbard, Hansen said. Originally the man planned to commit suicide, but then decided the robbery could be a way to get the attention of and care from authorities.

The robber escaped on foot with about 60,000 kroner after the stickup at about 10 a.m. Dec. 21, prompting heightened alerts at Svalbard Airport and local school officials to hold back students about to depart for Christmas break, but police caught the man about 20 minutes later.

News of the robbery quickly went viral internationally, largely due to the incredulity of locals and outsiders sharing “what was he thinking” comments since there was no practical way the man could have escaped since the only access to and from Svalbard during the winter is by commercial flights, which typically occur once a day.

The written ruling by Nord-Troms District court, in ordering the payment, states “the defendant has, by his behavior and threats, created fear among the three bank employees, and is convicted of three serious threats. Although the defendant was calm and did not appear to be aggressive in any way, the weapon was loaded and the bank employees understood that the weapon presented a threat.”

The man has been in prison since his arrest, so he has already served 136 days of his sentence.