Germany urges China: treat our man better

Germany's justice minister called on Tuesday for the fair treatment of a man who has been sat in Beijing prison for the past three months on suspicion of art smuggling.

Germany urges China: treat our man better
Photo: DPA

But according to media reports, the case might be being used to curb tax evasion in the art world.

Police held Nils Jennrich, 32, on March 29 and formally detained him on May 7 for allegedly under-reporting the value of imported art to evade 10 million yuan in taxes, lawyer Nancy Murphy said. A Chinese colleague was also detained.

Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger told Die Welt newspaper in an interview to be published Wednesday that Jennrich was being kept in “unacceptable” conditions that did not meet international standards.

She has asked officials in Beijing if he could “be released on bail, or at least be granted house arrest.”

A document from customs police said Jennrich was “accused of violating various anti-smuggling provisions of the laws and regulations,” Murphy told AFP.

Jennrich worked in Beijing as general manager for Hong Kong-based Integrated Fine Arts Solutions.

The company imports a small amount of art, while focusing on providing storage for mainly Chinese pieces belonging to clients, according to managing director Torsten Hendricks. While undervaluing imported artwork might be practised among individual collectors in China, he said, his company rarely handled such clients.

“It doesn’t make sense,” he said. “Most of the goods stored in our warehouse, again, nearly 95 per cent, were of Chinese origin.”

Investigators have until December to present charges to prosecutors who will then have three months to determine whether to pursue the case, she said. Jennrich has been denied bail.

The sentence for evading more than 500,000 yuan in duties ranges from 10 years to life, though courts may issue lighter sentences, according to Yang Wei, another lawyer representing Jennrich.

Other companies and collectors have recently faced questioning about evading import taxes, suggesting a broader crackdown, said Murphy.

Jennrich has received visits from the German ambassador and other embassy officials, a German foreign ministry spokeswoman said.

Customs officials did not respond immediately to a request for comment.

AFP/DPA/The Local/jcw

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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.

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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