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by Carlos Albaladejo

Spain's most famous swindler

The mystery behind a picture. It's exactly the same feeling that moves a crowd to the theaters. The films might not be great stories, but deliver the magic of living through others' lives for a while.

Of course, it's the same kind of attraction that some of us feel when we find a photograph in the middle of the street:  the idea of imagining a story behind the image. That's the normal process of a creative mind that has just found such a treasure. But in this case, the Polaroid I found in Barcelona didn't give me much of a chance to use my imagination.

The picture shows a moment shared by three guys and a sexy, leggy girl. It was taken some place in Barcelona in 2005. The poster behind them is for the 2005 Sonar music festival. And most important of all, the second guy on the right is El Dioni, a pretty well known thief, who has a most bizarre part in Spain's criminal history.

Let's start from the beginning. Born in 1949, Dionisio Rodríguez Martín is a Spanish security guard who, in July 1989, dared to rob an armored truck owned by the company for whom he worked. He took 298 million Pesetas (1.8 million Euros today) and disappeared.

That day, as head of truck security, he waited until his two partners were absent and grabbed the wheel, drove to his car and moved all the money to the trunk. Later on, he would explain the reasons that moved him to commit the robbery:  he was mad at the company's board of directors because they had demoted him with no explanation at all.

Now known as "El Dioni" by the media, he moved to Brazil and lived the good life after changing his look by using a hairpiece. But a few months later Brazilian police caught him and jailed him for ten months. After that he was extradited to Spain where he spent the rest of the sentence.

He was set free on probation six years later, in March 1995, after spending three quarters of his sentence in jail and with only part of the money recovered. The company he worked for had gone bankrupt. By the time he left jail, El Dioni had become a publicly recognizable criminal.

He opened a pub in Madrid, called "La Cueva del Dioni" (Dioni's Cave) and earned enough to open a second one. This time he called it "El Caco Dioni" (Dioni the thief). To promote this one, he printed thousands of photocopies of a 1,000 pesetas note with his face in. He was accused of falsification of currency.

Then, he decided to give free rein to another passion:  singing. He recorded two albums, both of which referred to his self-described "heroism." His second one was called Todo sobre mi furgón (All about my armored truck). He was offered significant amounts of money to perform live on different TV channels, but he wasn't able due to a court order that forbids the promotion of the album.

But law doesn't seem to be an obstacle for this man. He has been regularly collaborating with different late night talk shows in Spain. Cronicas Marcianas (Martian Chronicles), a show conducted by Spanish TV star Javier Sardá  during the late '90s and early '00s, used to feature him at least once a week. In his TV performances, El Dioni used to avoid any comment about the robbery (although he also never said he regrets what he did).

After the cancellation of Cronicas Marcianas, El Dioni's popularity started to decline, so when the Sonar Festival, one of the most important electronic music events in Europe, called him in 2004 with an offer, he accepted immediately.

The plan of the festival organizers was to make him the main public face of the 2005 festival. It was a win-win:  Sonar's directors wanted to make it a post-modern event by honoring famous swindlers and El Dioni had a great opportunity to be on top again. Other well-known criminals were featured on the marketing campaign.

This picture, then, comes from the summer of 2005, which Dioni spent meeting techno kids. One of them apparently lost his picture at a Barcelona bus stop. Or perhaps he didn't want to honor an unapologetic thief. We don't need to use much of our imagination with this photo:  it has enough of a story already.

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Articles in this Issue

Garbage, by Jeanne Koskela
Time v. Frank Moran, A Heavyweight Bout, by Robert G. Byrnes
A Brooklyn of My Mind, by Linda McMeniman
The Parchment Brothers, by Alan Hirshfeld
Military History, by Amanda Ringer
Photography, by Carlos Albaladejo
Geology, by Shelley Emling
September 2009


Carlos Albaladejo lives in Barcelona and works for the Open University of Catalonia. He publishes his own pictures at Flickr, where he created the "I Found This Picture In The Street" group and sometimes writes corrosive commentaries on his blog and spins records as DrGonzisnotadj.

Where loss is found.

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