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Hugo Portmann Switzerland’s most infamous bank robber to be released from prison

mug shot of Portmann

A police mug shot of Portmann that was released when he escaped from prison in 1992


Hugo Portmann, a notorious bank robber in the 1980s and 1990s, has been granted parole after serving 35 years in prison. 

Almost 19 years after his last arrest, a Zurich cantonal court has accepted Portmann's application for parole. His latest “job” was a bank robbery in Horn in canton Thurgau with two accomplices, after escaping from a prison in canton Graubünden. He was handed a nine-year prison sentence for this heist. The 59-year-old has not served all the time accrued from four bank robberies but his lawyer managed to secure parole for Portmann on Wednesday on account of his age. He will be released from prison on July 16. The former bank robber will, however, have to report regularly to the authorities for a probationary period of three years. 

"It goes without saying that you will not be allowed to own or sell weapons," the president of the court told him. 

If the former French Foreign Legionnaire does not abide by the rules, the probationary period will be extended and prison is a certainty if he returns to a life of crime. 

Daring escapades

Portmann began his career as a robber in 1983 by committing two robberies in Wallisellen and Dietikon in canton Zurich. Sentenced to prison, he then tried to escape several times. 

In 1988, while on temporary parole, he attempted to rob a bank in Adliswil in canton Zurich. During his imprisonment for this offence, he escaped while participating in a mountain race for prisoners once he crossed the finish line. He was caught but later escaped. The robbery in Horn was his last heist. 

Between December 2011 and February 2012, Portmann had gone on hunger strike in detention. He was protesting a potential change in his sentence that could prevent him from getting parole.


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