Burglars sell stolen goods to victims online

Burglars cash in on their crimes, but the law could be creeping up on 'em

A Web site that allows burglars to sell stolen property back to its owner is illegal under British law according to criminal law experts. Theburglar.com stands accused of breaking the Theft Act by charging people "reward" money for the return of their possessions.

Victims of burglary can post details of their stolen goods at TheBurglar.com. Burglars are then invited to anonymously contact their victims by email and negotiate a price for the return of their stolen property. The site acts as the middleman between the "finder" and the victim: it receives the agreed reward and keeps it until the receiver of the goods has verified their shipment. TheBurglar.com then sends the payment to the address or account of the burglar's choice.

"It's illegal, the Theft Act states that you can't charge people for the recovery of their own property," said a spokesperson at the Association for Chief Police Officers. "Starting from the premise that the whole thing is illegal, all other details of the site fall by the wayside."

Robin Bynoe, partner at London law firm Charles Russell said that TheBurglar.com could be held liable as an accessory to the acts of theft that it is mediating. "If one person is committing a crime, and someone else is helping them, they become an accessory to that crime, and are committing a crime themselves."

TheBurglar.com could not be contacted for comment.

The contact message on the site reads: "Burglar.com Headquarters is placed in Copenhagen, but due to spite we have moved the office to a secret location." In the event of the company's servers being located outside of the UK, the Web site will escape British jurisdiction.

European and US officials are working on the final draft of the world's first international treaty on cybercrime which hopes to tackle the issue of Internet jurisdiction in a single legislative move.

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