Execs face jail for carbon dioxide trade tax fraud

Six business executives went on trial in Frankfurt on Monday accused of illegally claiming hundreds of millions of euros in tax refunds in a scheme linked to carbon emissions trading.

Execs face jail for carbon dioxide trade tax fraud
One of the accused with his lawyer. Photo: DPA

In one of Germany’s biggest fraud cases the defendants, aged 27 to 65, from Germany, Britain and France, are suspected of cooking up an international system to cheat tax authorities out of more than €230 million euros ($329 million).

“The defendants are accused of involvement in a web of tax fraud,” presiding judge Martin Bach said.

The alleged racket targeted the European Union Emission Trading Scheme, the largest multi-national, greenhouse gas emissions trading scheme in the world, with about 12,000 companies on the exchange.

Limits are placed on the amount of carbon dioxide companies may emit, while those which pollute less are free to sell their rights to companies unable to limit their emissions.

Prosecutors in the German business capital Frankfurt say the accused regularly drew tax rebates on emissions certificates for which no taxes had been paid in the first place.

The defendants could face a reduced sentence of between three and nine years in prison if they confess. Otherwise they face up to 10 years’ jail if convicted, Bach said.

Authorities have launched a probe against another 160 suspects in the case, including alleged accomplices in the United Arab Emirates, Britain and Switzerland.

The trial, in which more than 300 witnesses are due to testify, is expected to run until March 2012.


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Emergency numbers fail in several German states

Callers to the emergency numbers 110 and 112 weren’t able to reach operators Thursday morning in several German states.

The 112 emergency number on an ambulance.
The 112 emergency number on an ambulance. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Boris Roessler

The emergency number 110 for police and 112 for fire crews failed around the country early Thursday morning, with callers unable to reach emergency operators for urgent assistance between about 4:30 am and 5:40 am local time.

The Office for Civil Protection and Disaster Aid is looking into these outages, which were reported in states including Lower Saxony, Baden-Württemberg, and  Brandenburg, and in major cities like Berlin, Cologne, Hamburg, and Frankfurt. Cologne was further affected by cuts to electricity, drinking water, and regular telephone services. Lower Saxony also saw disruptions to the internal phone networks of police and hospitals.

Emergency services are not reporting any more disturbances and people should be able to once again reach 110 and 112 around the country as normal.

Investigators are looking into the problem, but haven’t yet established a cause or any consequences that may have happened due to the outage. Provider Deutsche Telekom says they have ruled out the possibility of an attack by hackers.