Near the story of the postal pig’s head was another that was more interesting than the Greek crisis, the British election or Mrs. Clinton’s candidacy. The headline was:

Care worker stole Euros 57,000 from ATMs

A woman called Titilayo Kilanko, of Nigerian origin, took advantage of a failure in a bank’s software to withdraw that sum of money from banks, using her card 115 times to do so, all in a day. Apparently several other persons took advantage on the same day of the failure of the bank’s software.

Mrs Kilanko, who pleaded guilty in court, found the perfect mitigating circumstance for our sentimental times: she needed Euros 25,000, she said, to pay a man to donate his kidney to her father in Nigeria, who needed a kidney transplant there. It was thus a fortunate coincidence that the need and the failure of software coincided. She stole money so that her father might live.

The case was adjourned by the judge for a month “€˜to give the defence time to provide evidence from Nigeria that Kilanko’s father did indeed undergo a kidney transplant.”€™ When I read that, I confessed that I laughed. I know Nigeria a little, and unlike most visitors like it very much: but I wouldn”€™t send to it for documentary evidence of anything, for the Nigerians are equal to producing such evidence for anything. Manufacturing evidence that a man has undergone kidney transplant would be child’s play for them, indeed they would enjoy it. This is to say that Mr Kilanko did not undergo such an operation, for such operations are performed in Nigeria; but since impersonation and forgery are major activities in the country, only much deeper and costlier investigations could establish the truth. 

The court-ordered investigation seems to imply that theft is at least partially justified if the use of the stolen money or goods is for a good cause. There is a dilemma here: we must allow moral mitigation (to save one’s father’s life is different from drinking champagne every night), but on the other hand no property would be safe if that fact that it could be put to better use were an excuse for purloining it. We”€™re back to the problem of ascribing the correct degree of culpability.


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