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Minister hits turbulence over flying carpet affair

Published: 08 Jun 2012 10:16 GMT+02:00

Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development Dirk Niebel is now under pressure to explain why he pulled strings to get his Afghan carpet flown to Germany for nothing – on a plane belonging to Germany's foreign intelligence agency (BND).

“This is not a surprise” said speaker of the Social Democrat (SPD) fraction in the Bundestag Thomas Oppmann. He added that Niebel treated his ministry like a “self-service shop for himself and his party”, the deeply unpopular junior coalition partner the Federal Democratic Party (FDP).

“The FDP has a tradition of tax evasion,” he told news magazine Der Spiegel on Thursday and added that he was waiting for Niebel to explain himself.

Niebel was on an official visit to Afghanistan in March when the €1,100 rug caught his eye – but because it weighed 30 kilos and he had other luggage, he could not take it with him on his commercial flight.

So he pulled a “personal favour” from Gerhard Schindler, head of Germany’s equivalent of MI6, who was happy to help. They arranged a drop at the German embassy in Kabul, where it was picked up by a secret agent, and flown home on a spy plane.

Not only did this mean he did not have to wait for his carpet, Niebel got it transported to Germany for nothing – and once there, it was whisked past customs, the magazine said. The plane landed at the non-commercial area of Berlin’s Schönefeld airport, and a driver collected the carpet and took it to Niebel – without declaring the import, Niebel’s ministry admitted.

“I had planned on picking it and taking it back as luggage up on my next trip to Afghanistan,” the minister said in a statement. “That, like how it was actually delivered, would not have cost extra.”

He has since informed customs officials of the carpet and applied to pay whatever is due.

The Local/jcw

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Your comments about this article

12:17 June 8, 2012 by lucksi
If I have additional luggage on my commercial flights, I can pay for them. I bet the 150 Euro or so fee put him off.

Also, a guy named Schindler as the head of Germany's version of the MI6? That's just ...ummm....shifty. I'd have my name changed.
12:55 June 8, 2012 by bobmarchiano
So what it is no big deal you need to have some perks with the job
13:49 June 8, 2012 by Leo Strauss
Outbound BND flight.

I bet it hurt to leave that 30 kgs of pure heroin on the runway in Kabul. :(
15:06 June 8, 2012 by Russell E. Willis
1 Peter 2:13, 14 ( KJV; 1611 EDITION ) read as follows:

"Submit your selues to euery ordinance of man for the Lordes sake, whether it be to the King, as supreme, or vnto gouernours, as vnto them that are sent by him, for the punishment of euil doers, and for the praise of them that doe well."

Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development Dirk Niebel finally did submit himself to the ordinances of man regarding the transport of his Afghan carpet, but only after now being under pressure to explain why he did what he did.

Sincerely in Christ,

Russell E. Willis

P.S. - Please read Proverbs 23:23.
15:22 June 8, 2012 by twisted
No big deal....American Members of Congress do this sort of thing all of the time. What do you think all those "fact finding" trips are for? Shopping and sight seeing primarily with a bit of business thrown in just to keep it official. And I speak from real knowledge.
15:33 June 8, 2012 by finanzdoktor
Geez, and here I had to pay extra for two bags (would have been four, if my family and I hadn't merged two and carried one onto the plane), when United Airlines wouldn't honor its Star Alliance partner's, Asiana Airlines, international travel baggage allowance.

I should have become a German Interior Minister, then I could have had the entire trip paid for by taxpayers. Definitely, either in the wrong line of work, or just not that arrogant.
18:19 June 8, 2012 by raandy
The SPD says the FDP is renowned for not paying taxes, sounds very political to me.

I am surprised that this is news worthy.
19:12 June 8, 2012 by Joshontour
If a product is manufactured in another country, bought in that country and then brought to Germany; what claim does Germany have on taxing that. The money he earned to buy the rug was already taxed.
20:29 June 8, 2012 by nedmesis
A photo of the carpet would have been nice.
21:58 June 8, 2012 by puisoh
@Joshontour .. there are things called VAT and import duty.

@ nedmesis .. ditto.
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