Robin Hood may be a figure from English folklore, but police said Wednesday they had uncovered a modern-day variant: a banker who took from the rich and lent to the poor.

Benedict Hancock, a 39-year-old manager at the Royal Bank of Scotland, used millions from wealthy clients to make unauthorized loans to needier customers, police said. Hancock was arrested last year but the case only came to light Wednesday, in a report in the Daily Telegraph newspaper.

Hancock funneled money from cash-rich clients to struggling companies out of concern for their financial well-being, his lawyer claimed, according to the newspaper.

"The only explanation he gave was that he wanted the companies to do well," the Telegraph quoted the lawyer, Andrew Lloyd-Eley, as saying. "He got on well with them and he wanted to make sure that they succeeded for their sake rather than his."

The newspaper reported that Hancock — who is from Nottinghamshire, the home of Sherwood Forest — plundered more than 7 million pounds (US$12.7 million) from wealthy clients to aid the beleaguered businesses. Royal Bank of Scotland had to write off more than 6 million pounds (US$10.9 million) of the money, according to the Telegraph.

Hancock was arrested in February 2007 and found guilty of 14 counts of false accounting and one count of abuse of position on Aug. 19, 2008, City of London Police said in a statement. He was sentenced Tuesday to 18 months in prison at Blackfriars Crown Court in central London, police said.

RBS spokesman Andy Cameron-Smith said he could not immediately confirm the amount of cash Hancock misappropriated or how exactly the scheme was uncovered. He confirmed that Hancock was fired in May 2007.

"Obviously he was dismissed from the bank," Cameron-Smith said.