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CRIME

Politicians irked by more car scrapping premium fraud

Politicians are calling for tighter controls after further reports of criminal misuse of Germany’s "cash for clunkers" car scrapping premium emerged this week.

Politicians irked by more car scrapping premium fraud
Photo: DPA

The BDK criminal investigative alliance reported on Wednesday that up to 50,000 cars have been illegally sold to places like Africa and Eastern Europe instead of being scrapped as agreed.

The popular Abwrackprämie, or car scrapping premium, was part of Germany’s second stimulus plan and gives €2,500 ($3,500) to those who junk a car that is at least nine years old for a new one. The measure has boosted car sales significantly, but reports of fraud are on the rise.

While there is no concrete data for such incidences in Germany, BDK leader Winfried Albishausen told broadcaster ARD on Thursday that his organisation has logged some 200 “coincidental finds” in the port city of Hamburg and in the state of Baden-Württemberg. Selling the cars abroad is an easy way for criminals to make money because there is low risk for being caught, Albishausen said.

Finance Minister Peer Steinbrück has already said the government should look into the misuse of the funds.

Meanwhile, transport policy expert for the pro-business Free Democrats Patrick Döring told daily Bild on Thursday that the government should begin a special commission to stop the fraud.

“Customs, criminal investigators and the Federal Office of Economics and Export Control (Bafa) must conduct more spot checks at scrap merchants,” he said.

Head of the Christian Social Union parliamentary party group, Hans-Peter Friedrich, also called for stricter control on the government funds.

“Those who take part in fraud should know they will be followed without mercy,” he told Bild.

Last month reports surfaced that fraudulent claims on scrap cars from Germany have gleaned millions of euros in the Netherlands, and some of the vehicles are coming from the popular Abwrackprämie.

The car scrapping premium began on February 20 as part of the government’s attempt to stimulate growth after the financial crisis. It was designed to encourage used-car buyers to add their old cars to the scrap heap for new, cleaner-burning autos.

In early March German officials changed the rules for the scrap premium due to fraud because some people were selling their old cars instead of scrapping them. Those who apply for the premium must now provide the original vehicle registration for the scrapped car instead of just a photocopy.

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CRIME

German man jailed for killing petrol station worker in mask row

A 50-year-old German man was jailed for life Tuesday for shooting dead a petrol station cashier because he was angry about being told to wear a mask while buying beer.

German man jailed for killing petrol station worker in mask row

The September 2021 murder in the western town of Idar-Oberstein shocked Germany, which saw a vocal anti-mask and anti-vaccine movement emerge in response to the government’s coronavirus restrictions.

The row started when 20-year-old student worker Alex W. asked the man to put on a mask inside the shop, as required in all German stores at the time.

After a brief argument, the man left.

The perpetrator – identified only as Mario N. – returned about an hour and a half later, this time wearing a mask. But as he bought his six-pack of beer to the till, he took off his mask and another argument ensued.

He then pulled out a revolver and shot the cashier in the head point-blank.

On Tuesday, the district court in Bad-Kreuznach convicted Mario N. of murder and unlawful possession of a firearm, and handed him a life sentence.

READ ALSO: Shock in Germany after cashier shot dead in Covid mask row

Under German law, people given a life sentence can usually seek parole after 15 years. His defence team had sought a sentence of manslaughter, rather than murder.

At the start of the trial, prosecutor Nicole Frohn told how Mario N. had felt increasingly angry about the measures imposed to curb the pandemic, seeing them as an infringement on his rights.

“Since he knew he couldn’t reach the politicians responsible, he decided to kill him (Alex W.),” she said.

Mario N. turned himself in to police the day after the shooting.

German has relaxed most of its coronavirus rules, although masks are still required in some settings, such as public transport.

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