BERLIN (Reuters) - Four elderly Germans were handed jail sentences on Tuesday for kidnapping their financial adviser and holding him prisoner in a basement in an attempt to recover around 2.5 million euros in lost savings.
The two men and two women, aged between 61 and 80, seized the banker outside his apartment in the western town of Speyer, bound and gagged him and bundled him into the boot of a car before driving him some 500 km (300 miles) across Germany.
Dubbed "pensioner gangsters" by the German media, they held the 57-year-old man for days in a basement, trying to force him to transfer large sums of money to them.
In one remittance order the banker included the message "Sell 100 Call Pol.ICE today please!" A bank employee notified police and the banker was freed by an elite commando group.
"My client regrets it greatly, especially that he pulled his wife and the others into the situation," defense lawyer Udo Krause said of the 74-year-old ringleader, identified only as Roland K.
The court in the Bavarian town of Traunstein sentenced the two men to six and four years in jail, while the two women were given suspended sentences of 21 and 18 months. All four had confessed to the kidnapping during the trial.
"Our relationship with (the banker) had developed into a friendship over the years so I felt I had to apologize to him," Roland K. said. (Reporting by Sarah Marsh, editing by Tim Pearce)