Asuncion, Feb 22 (IANS/EFE) An employee of a security company who made off with nearly $500,000 before turning himself in to the Paraguayan police 30 hours later with just $200 in his pocket said he had distributed the cash among the poor.
"I robbed the thief," Carlos Gonzalez said shortly after surrendering to authorities at a police station in the Asuncion suburb of Villa Elisa early Thursday.
Police had been searching for the suspect since Tuesday afternoon, when he took advantage of the momentary absence of his co-workers to drive away with the armoured money truck.
The legal counsel of the Prosegur company, Jose Domingo Almada, told EFE that it was an obvious "defensive strategy" on Gonzalez's part to feign to be "a modern-day Robin Hood".
According to the suspect's version of events, he "only" took one bag containing 600 million guaranis ($150,000) before abandoning the armoured truck with the motor running near a bus terminal and beginning a journey in taxi to distribute the cash.
He said he passed out wads of 5, 10 and 15 million guaranies and kept the equivalent of $200 for himself.
But Prosegur's Almada said just over $1.1 million was found in the abandoned van and the company's records show that the "missing amount undoubtedly comes to at least" $470,000.
In an interview from jail with Radio Nanduti, Gonzalez said the company does not pay its workers "their fair share" and makes them work more than 12 hours a day for a monthly salary of $630.
"They rob us," he said.
But Almada countered by saying that "Prosegur complies 100 percent with all (labor-code) regulations".
The Spanish-owned company has faced a year of labour strife in Paraguay, including a strike last July involving some 200 workers. Many of those who took part in the job action were later fired, according to their union.
Prosegur employs some 1,100 people and posted nearly $40 million in revenue in 2011, tops in its sector in Paraguay.