By Calvin Palmer
When four German retirees lost $1.4 million in the financial crisis, they sought retribution and kidnapped their American investment adviser, a court in Traustein, Germany, heard today.
James Amburn, 57, a financial adviser who worked out offices in the U.S. and Germany, had made investments in real estate projects in Florida since the 1990s.
Two couples invested their life savings with Amburn and received 12 percent annual interest for four years. But Amburn was hit by the financial crisis in the U.S. and could not come up with the promised interest anymore, the court was told.
Amburn was kidnapped from his home in Speyer, southern Germany, in June, by the two couples and a former employee of Amburn, Wilhelm D, who said he was owed $690,000.
They held him captive in a house, beat him up, and forced him to send an order to transfer more than euro2 million ($2.7 million) to their accounts from his bank in Zurich, Switzerland, not knowing that there was no money left.
After four days captivity, Amburn wrote a plea for help in a crude code — “Sell 100 Call Pol.ICE” — on the fax to his bank and was freed by a team of police commandos within hours. The retirees gave themselves up without resistance.
Ringleader 74-year-old Roland K., received six years in prison for kidnapping and grievous bodily harm. His 80-year-old wife, Sieglinde, received a suspended sentence of 18 months.
Co-conspirator 61-year-old Wilhelm D. was sentenced to four years in prison, while a 64-year-old woman known as Iris was given a suspended sentence of 21 months. Her husband Gerhard, who also took part in the group’s kidnapping, was considered too ill to be judged.
The presiding judge called the case a “spectacular attempt at vigilante-justice”.
Police are now separately investigating whether Amburn himself committed fraud with the retirees’ investments.