‘Baron Cut-and-Paste’ pays to avoid plagiarism charges

German prosecutors said Wednesday they dropped a plagiarism probe against a former defence minister and mooted successor to Chancellor Angela Merkel after the multi-millionaire made a donation to charity.

'Baron Cut-and-Paste' pays to avoid plagiarism charges
Photo: DPA

Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, once the most popular figure in Merkel’s cabinet, resigned on March 1 after his doctorate was rescinded for plagiarism, earning the aristocrat the nickname “Baron Cut-and-Paste.”

Now prosecutors in the southern city of Hof said they had closed their case against Guttenberg, also savaged in the press as “zu Googleberg,” after he donated €20,000 ($26,800) to a children’s cancer charity.

The practice is relatively common for relatively minor legal infractions.

The 39-year-old was accused of violating copyrights after it emerged that swathes of his doctoral dissertation on constitutional law were lifted directly from other works.

The prosecutor’s office said it had received 199 criminal complaints against zu Guttenberg, who is currently living in the United States with his family, but only one came from an author whose work was allegedly stolen.

Prosecutors had pored over the dissertation looking for evidence of plagiarism but concluded that only “23 text passages were found to be copyright violations under criminal law.”

“That is why a court and the public prosecutor’s office concluded that a payment of €20,000 for a charity organisation would obviate the public interest in a criminal prosecution,” it said.

Zu Guttenberg, once seen as the most promising up-and-coming politician in Merkel’s conservative alliance, agreed to stop using his doctor title as the scandal emerged early this year.

He is to publish a new memoir entitled “Unsuccessful, For Now” next week amid media speculation about a potential political comeback at the next scheduled general election in 2013.


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Germany in talks on further payout for 1972 Olympics victims

The German government says it is in talks over further compensation for victims of the attack on the Munich Olympics, as the 50th anniversary of the atrocity approaches.

Germany in talks on further payout for 1972 Olympics victims

Ahead of the commemoration in September, relatives of the Israelis killed have indicated they are unhappy with what Germany is offering.

“Conversations based on trust are taking place with representatives of the victims’ families,” a German interior ministry spokesman told AFP when asked about the negotiations.

He did not specify who would benefit or how much money had been earmarked, saying only that any package would “again” be financed by the federal government, the state of Bavaria and the city of Munich.

On September 5th, 1972, eight gunmen broke into the Israeli team’s flat at the Olympic village, shooting dead two and taking nine Israelis hostage, threatening to kill them unless 232 Palestinian prisoners were released.

West German police responded with a bungled rescue operation in which all nine hostages were killed, along with five of the eight hostage-takers and a police officer.

An armed police officer in a tracksuit secures the block where terrorists  held Israeli hostages at the Olympic Village in Munich on 5th September 1972.

An armed police officer in a tracksuit secures the block where terrorists held Israeli hostages at the Olympic Village in Munich on 5th September 1972. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Horst Ossingert

The spokeswoman for the victims’ families, Ankie Spitzer, told the German media group RND that the amount currently on the table was “insulting” and threatened a boycott of this year’s commemorations.

She said Berlin was offering a total of €10 million including around €4.5 million already provided in compensation between 1972 and 2002 — an amount she said did not correspond to international standards. 

“We are angry and disappointed,” said Spitzer, the widow of fencing coach Andre Spitzer who was killed in the attack. “We never wanted to talk publicly about money but now we are forced to.”

RND reported that the German and Israeli governments would like to see an accord by August 15th.

The interior ministry spokesman said that beyond compensation, Germany intended to use the anniversary for fresh “historical appraisal, remembrance and recognition”.

He said this would include the formation of a commission of German and Israeli historians to “comprehensively” establish what happened “from the perspective of the year 2022”.

This would lead to “an offer of further acts of acknowledgement of the relatives of the victims of the attack” and the “grave consequences” they suffered.