But an elderly Swedish couple found out the hard way that rules governing recovered assets aren’t so clear on the matter.
Bertil and Elly Jacobsson were simply trying to do the right thing when a pair of men claiming to need directions and water for their overheated car knocked on the door of their home in the northwestern Swedish county of Jämtland.
“I’ve always tried to be helpful,” Bertil told The Local.
But as soon as the men left a few minutes later, Bertil began to realize something was wrong.
“I got a strange feeling. One of them had gone into the kitchen to get water, and I didn’t have an eye on him the whole time,” he said.
Worried, Bertil went to check a desk drawer where he kept spare cash and found it empty.
A total of 18,000 kronor ($3,000) was missing.
Wanting again to do the right thing, he then called the police.
He and his wife gave officers a detailed description of the men and their car, and soon thereafter police arrested the two men, along with two others, in nearby Härjedalen.
The four men, who were carrying around 20,000 kronor, confessed to their crimes and were later convicted, each receiving a year-long prison sentence.
“Clearly, it was our money,” said Bertil.
But rather than having their 18,000 kronor promptly returned by police, Bertil and Emily instead received some disturbing news from a representative of Sweden’s national debt collection agency, Kronofogden.
“This woman came by out of the blue and said that the thieves had over 200,000 kronor in tax debts and that we wouldn’t be seeing any of our money because it would first go toward paying down those debts,” Bertil explained.
Bertil was surprised to learn that the state would end up getting the confiscated cash.
“Apparently the rules are different when it comes to cash,” he said.
The matter is still being sorted out, but Bertil expects that he and his wife will eventually get their money back one way or another.
“It’s taking quite a long time, but we’re hopeful,” he said.
And what if the authorities ultimately decide to use the Jacobsson’s savings to pay down the crook’s debts?
“That wouldn’t be fair at all,” he said.