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CRIME

Labour Agency reportedly orders ‘spying’ on welfare fraudsters

Welfare recipient advocats are warning of what they call “Stasi methods” at the Federal Labour Agency (BA) to catch people claiming fraudulent benefits, according to German media reports on Thursday.

Labour Agency reportedly orders 'spying' on welfare fraudsters
Photo: DPA

Daily newspaper Bild said the BA released new instructions on May 20 to all Hartz IV welfare offices that encourage “observation” in cases of “suspicion of an especially serious benefit misuse.”

Welfare workers will also increase the number of household visits where they are to get permission from beneficiaries to search closets and cabinets “when a statement of financial affairs isn’t possible,” the paper said. Details of the apartment searches will be logged in detail by room with particular attention paid to “peculiarities.”

News magazine Der Spiegel reported on Thursday that Labour Agency offices will employ private firms to carry out some of this surveillance, questioning neighbours and children about the suspected fraudster.

According to welfare advocacy organisations Gegen Hartz IV and Erwerbslosenforum Deutschland, an “anonymous report from a bitchy neighbour” would be adequate for an agency report, Der Spiegel said.

Spokesperson for Erwerbslosenforum Deutschland Martin Behrsig said his group is exploring legal action against the new policy, which he said are similar to feared East German Stasi police methods.

“We are legally required to fight the misuse of benefits,” a BA spokesperson told news agency DPA from Nuremberg on Thursday, adding that suc checks have been used for years.

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CRIME

Driver in Bavaria gets €5,000 fine for giving the finger to speed camera

A driver in Passau has been hit with a €5,000 fine because he was caught by traffic police giving the middle finger.

Driver in Bavaria gets €5,000 fine for giving the finger to speed camera

The district court of Passau sentenced the 53-year-old motorist to the fine after he was caught making the rude gesture in the direction of the speedometer last August on the A3 near the Donautal Ost service area, reported German media. 

The man was not caught speeding, however. According to traffic police who were in the speed camera vehicle at the time, another driver who had overtaken the 53-year-old was over the speed limit. 

When analysing the photo, the officers discovered the slower driver’s middle finger gesture and filed a criminal complaint.

The driver initially filed an objection against a penalty order, and the case dragged on for several months. However, he then accepted the complaint. He was sentenced to 50 ‘unit fines’ of €100 on two counts of insulting behaviour, amounting to €5,000.

READ ALSO: The German rules of the road that are hard to get your head around

In a letter to police, the man said he regretted the incident and apologised. 

Police said it was “not a petty offence”, and that the sentence could have been “even more drastic”.

People who give insults while driving can face a prison sentences of up to a year.

“Depending on the nature and manner of the incident or in the case of persons with a previous conviction, even a custodial sentence without parole may be considered for an insult,” police in Passau said. 

What does the law say?

Showing the middle finger to another road user in road traffic is an offence in Germany under Section 185 of the Criminal Code (StGB). It’s punishable by a prison sentence of up to one year or a fine.

People can file a complaint if someone shows them the middle finger in road traffic, but it usually only has a chance of success if witnesses can prove that it happened.

As well as the middle finger, it can also be an offence to verbally insult someone. 

READ ALSO: The German road signs that confuse foreigners

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