Canada extradites German arms dealer

A 75-year-old German-Canadian arms dealer landed in Munich on Monday to face tax evasion and bribery charges related to a slush-fund scandal that disgraced former Chancellor Helmut Kohl in 1999.

Canada extradites German arms dealer
Photo: DPA

After losing a decade-long battle to avoid extradition, Karlheinz Schreiber touched down in Munich to face German police waiting to take him to a single cell in Augsburg prison before trial.

Schreiber is accused of playing a key role in a sprawling slush-fund scandal that rocked the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party in the 1990s and helped pave the way for current chancellor Angela Merkel’s rise to power.

Schreiber faces charges of bribery, fraud and tax evasion, said chief prosecutor Reinhard Nemetz. “The maximum sentence could be up to 15 years in prison,” he told reporters.

Nemetz said the accused was in good shape physically and would appear at a closed-door hearing on Tuesday to have the charges against him read out. However, it was still not clear whether the politically sensitive case would be heard in court before the national elections on September 27.

Herbert Veh, chief justice on the regional court, said: “The date of the national election will not play a role in the decision.”

Schreiber’s undeclared contributions to the CDU sparked a political scandal that claimed the scalp of the then head of the party, Wolfgang Schäuble, now interior minister, and tarnished former chancellor Helmut Kohl’s legacy.

Schreiber, who holds both German and Canadian nationality, is believed to have made an undeclared one-million-mark (€500,000) donation to the CDU.

In 2002, he also told a delegation of German deputies visiting him in Toronto that he had paid at least €510,000 to the Christian Social Union (CSU), Bavaria’s sister party of the CDU.

He also stands accused of evading taxes on millions of euros in income from arms deals as well as offering bribes to ensure government approval for the sale of armoured cars to Saudi Arabia.

A Canadian court on Sunday rejected his final appeal to avoid extradition to Germany and he was flown out from Toronto later that night.

“Over a 10-year period, Mr. Schreiber was given every reasonable opportunity to challenge his extradition,” said Canadian Justice Minister Rob Nicholson.

“His surrender to Germany was in full accord with the law and consistent with the spirit and purpose of extradition.”

Speaking to reporters on Sunday, Schreiber said there was a political dimension to his extradition, with a general election less than two months away.

“The Social Democrats won three elections with my case in the past,” he said, referring to the junior partner in Merkel’s coalition government.

“If I come now that would be the greatest thing, it would start a huge investigation and … they would think they could win the next election.”

The Social Democrats are currently trailing Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative bloc by as much as 15 points in the polls.

But the Canadian authorities rejected Schreiber’s argument, concluding that it was “the latest in a series of creative instalments to frustrate a legitimate extradition process.”

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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