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3 COINS IN FOUNTAIN MAY GO TO THIEVES

Stealing coins that tourists throw into Rome's famed Trevi Fountain is not a crime - even if you get caught wet-handed.

That is the gist of a ruling by a Rome judge over the weekend that puzzled many Italians.Judge Giovanni Bombardieri ruled that until city workmen fish out the money the coins were "res nullius," a Latin juridical term meaning "belonging to no one."

The ruling stemmed from the police detention of four teenagers who retrieved money from the fountain where tourists hurl coins in a traditional wish that they will return to the Eternal City.

The judge ruled that if anyone was responsible for the theft it was municipal police because they had not guarded the fountain well enough.