Death of Lucio Urtubia, anarchist. “Robbing banks was an honour and a delight.”

Lucio Urtubia was born in Spain in 1931 into a poor peasant family. As a young man, with the Francoist dictatorship at its height, he deserted from the army and decamped to France. He started working as a bricklayer and building contractor whilst being active in anarchist groups. He became adept in document forgery and such was his talent that revolutionary movements all over the globe ordered forged passports and papers from him in order to dodge repression by dictatorships and authoritarian regimes. But his “arrival” and emergence as a figure in history came in the 1970s when he managed to corner one of the most powerful banks in the world with his counterfeit cheques.

After some armed bank robberies in France, Lucio decided to take his struggle up a notch. Thrusting guns into the faces of bank staff in order to get his hands on cash was not to his taste. And that is where his counterfeiting career began.

Using counterfeit traveller’s cheques, Lucio managed to relieve First National City Bank of upwards of 20 million dollars, the money then being shared out to a number of deserving causes. It was this that earned him the label of the “anarchist Robin Hood” since all of the proceeds from the banks was shared out to those in need. Despite the millions of dollars that he stole, he always led a modest lifestyle up until his death at the age of 89.

As far as Lucio was concerned, “people power lies in knowledge and how to make use of things”. And he added “Making and manufacturing are not criminal; the crime comes into it when you make money and keep it for yourself. Everything else – making mugs of the authorities, mugs of the banks, holding injustices up to ridicule – is priceless.”

Such were Lucio’s skills and ingenuity that when he was arrested for stealing millions of dollars from one of the world’s most powerful banks, he managed to negotiate his way out of jail and indeed to earn more money. While he was behind bars, the male and female comrades on the outside carried on cashing his counterfeit cheques, as a result of which City Bank decided to free him and pay him a huge settlement figure in return for a commitment that there would be no more phoney cheques.

Of his childhood back in Navarra he stated that “I never had the feeling that it was my home because all I knew there was hunger, injustice and crime” and it was this that prompted him to take the causes of justice and freedom to his heart and go on to rob banks and pass the proceeds on to those in need.

As to what money was worth, Lucio used to explain that he had been “a millionaire heaps of times but I count my wealth in terms of the people who came along to listen to me and ask me questions”. Up until his death he was up for meeting people and he shared his life with journalists, youngsters and others who used to drop in on him at the little apartment in France where he passed away today.

His life-story made it into the movies, comic strips, literature, music and television. In 2010, the leading Chilean nueva cumbia band ‘Juana Fe’ dedicated its record ‘La Makinita’ to Lucio Urtubia, the anarchist bricklayer. In a documentary Lucio declared “I take more and more pride in my life and my robberies and in never having done anyone any harm.”

From: 19/07/2020. Translated by: Paul Sharkey.