Notorious bank robber “El Solitario” fakes fainting spell in Madrid court

Judge declines to suspend trial of Jaime Giménez Arbe after detecting ruse

Bank robber Giménez Arbe pretends to have passed out in court.
Bank robber Giménez Arbe pretends to have passed out in court.EFE

One of Spain's most notorious bank robbers unsuccessfully tried to get his latest trial suspended in Madrid on Tuesday by faking a fainting spell in court.

Jaime Giménez Arbe, who is nicknamed “El Solitario” (The Loner), ended up with his eyes closed and his head against the arm of one of the Civil Guard officers guarding him in the courtroom, where he stands accused of robbing a bank in the upmarket La Moraleja suburb of Madrid in May 2006.

The judge called for a doctor, who took his blood pressure and confirmed there was nothing wrong with him. "You are feigning the state in which you appear to be in," the judge said, ordering the trial to continue.

Since he was arrested in Figueira da Foz, Portugal, in July 2007 Giménez Arbe has tried to pass off the long list of robberies of which he is accused as a personal crusade against the banks and capitalism. But the ploy has proved unsuccessful and his performances in court have turned into farce.

On Tuesday, all the witnesses who took the stand confirmed that as soon as they saw him appear in the branch of the Banco Popular bank in La Moraleja in his false beard, dark glasses, cap and crutch, they recognized him as El Solitario. By then the Civil Guard had already made him famous by circulating photos of him in the same disguise.

A doctor examined the accused and confirmed there was nothing wrong

"'Give me everything,' he said to me, and I opened the draw in order to take the money,' the teller told the court. She related how he had put a gun to her head and picked up the 21,055 euros in the till. He then fired a shot and the bullet pierced the counter. Giménez Arbe made his getaway in a van with false license plates that some witnesses identified as the Renault Kangoo he used in several other robberies.

The case on trial this week has a certain significance in the criminal history of El Solitario, who is currently serving a nine-year sentence in Portugal. Until that robbery, he had always spaced out his raids. But after the La Moraleja operation, he embarked on an unprecedented spree, appearing two days later in Tres Cantos, Madrid; on October 10 in a Banco Popular branch in L'Alcúdia, Valencia; on November 11 in a savings bank in Ávila; on December 14 in San Agustín de Guadalix, outside Madrid; on February 7, 2007 in the Banco Popular on the Canillas highway; and on May 18 in Toro, Zamora province.

It is thought El Solitario began the spree because he wanted to collect enough money to give up his profession and run away with Iris Roberta Martins, a Brazilian woman with whom he had fallen in love on an internet chat room.

His last robbery was due to be carried out in Portugal, but by then the law was right behind him. He was arrested following a joint operation carried out by the police forces of both countries.

At the end of the trial Giménez Arbe, now recovered from his apparent fainting spell, told the judge that he had not drunk any water for the last five days. "I want to express my surprise at what has been said," he said. "The witnesses did not recognize me, but rather the utopian character of El Solitario," he told the judge.

The trial is now ready for judgment. The prosecution is asking for 11 years in prison for alleged counts of robbery with intimidation, use of a dangerous instrument, illegal possession of firearms and falsifying evidence.

Exiting the courthouse, lawyers for the defense explained that El Solitario spends 22 hours a day in his cell, has no television and once half of his sentence in Portugal has been completed they are going to request a transfer to a Spanish jail.

His total current tally of sentences runs to 67 years, among them, one of 47 years for the killing of two Civil Guards in Navarre in 2004.