Swiss police arrest Canada’s ‘most wanted’

CCTV image of James Shuman, Canada's 'vaulter bandit'. Picture: AP
CCTV image of James Shuman, Canada's 'vaulter bandit'. Picture: AP
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Geneva police have arrested the “most-wanted bank robber in Canada,” a seemingly athletic French-American citizen known for jumping over bank counters in his heists.

The 53-year-old suspect, Jeffrey James Shuman, nicknamed “The Vaulter Bandit”, had been sought under an international arrest warrant issued by Canada in connection with more than 20 bank robberies over the last five years.

He wore a hoodie, or a New York Yankees cap, or a construction worker’s hard hat and vest, during his five-year spree. He apparently worked alone, and was never violent with his victims, but brandished a gun in one hand as he vaulted over counters with the other.

The Canadian Bankers Association had offered a C$100,000 reward for information leading to his arrest and conviction.

It wasn’t immediately clear how much money the man has stolen over the years. Shulman’s alleged heists began in February of 2010, and include 12 in York Region, four in Calgary, two in Peel Region, and one each in Hamilton, Ottawa, and Toronto.

After a five-year investigation, York Regional Police issued an international arrest warrant for Shuman.

York Regional Police believe Shulman was residing in France at the time of his arrest. Jean-Philippe Brandt, spokesman for Geneva police, said he is being held as extradition procedures are under way.

York Region Police said the Ministry of Attorney General and Swiss authorities are working together on extradition. Shulman cannot be formally charged until he is back in Canada.

The robber first struck in York Region north of Toronto in February 2010.

The suspect was intercepted by plainclothes police while he was driving on a Geneva street on Tuesday, and taken into custody without incident, Geneva police spokesman Jean-Philippe Brandt said.

He is being held pending extradition procedures, and could face life in prison if convicted, police said.

A Geneva police statement provided links to two videos of news reports that contain footage taken from bank cameras showing the suspect in action, though Swiss police and judicial officials declined to identify him by name – deferring to Canadian authorities. In Canada, York Regional Police said they believe Shuman was residing in France.

“We’ve all been working together for years sharing info on this guy. The surveillance images we have been able to release are incredible and it’s taken a long time to figure who it is. Given where the arrest was made it’s an indication of why it’s taken this long,” York Constable Andy Pattenden said. He added they hope to have him extradited soon.

“It’s great news,” Mr Pattenden said. “It’s been a long, long investigation and a lot of ongoing robberies.”

Malcolm Chivers of the Canadian Bankers Association said: “It’s obviously terrific to have him off the streets… he was a serial robber. It was a great concern to everyone.”

The Vaulter’s early robberies followed the same formula: run into the bank, jump over the counter, and steal money from cash door.

“We’ve described him as Canada’s most notorious bank robber,” said Mr Pattenden. “It’s been an ongoing very lengthy investigation involving numerous police services.”

“As time went on, his method of operation changed, and he definitely did some work to case out banks and figure out how they worked.’’

Later robberies were conducted at the bank’s opening time when employees were arriving for work. In some cases, they were led to cash vaults at gunpoint.