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CRIME

Bundeswehr soldiers ‘for hire as mercenaries’

German soldiers are moonlighting illegally at private security firms while off-duty, a newspaper revealed on Monday. Working as heavily armed guards on freighters or in war-zones, some do it for the cash and others for the adrenaline kick.

Bundeswehr soldiers 'for hire as mercenaries'
Photo: DPA

As members of the German army, Bundeswehr, soldiers are not allowed to work as mercenaries for private companies – yet many are doing it, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) found out.

Exact figures on how many of Germany’s soldiers, or former soldiers, work the private security circuit are unknown. According to the FAZ’s research, the field is growing and critics are warning of a “mercenary renaissance”.

In response to a written request for information from the Green Party last year, the government revealed that there were at least a dozen registered mercenary companies in the country alone.

One such firm told the paper that although they did not advertise jobs, it received three applications each day – mostly from soldiers. Those given a job are often sent to guard ships or to pick up the slack in combat zones.

The paper said guarding German freighters off Africa, where piracy is rife, was a common gig. Last spring the government passed a law saying its country’s ships were allowed to have armed protection – but the idea was not that German soldiers should do it in their spare time.

And though ships can be owned by German companies, many fly under a different national flag – largely Liberia, Antigua or Barbuda, which have different laws on what weapons guards can use.

Identified only as Till, an ex-Bundeswehr soldier turned ship security guard told the FAZ that when working at sea he worked with automatic weapons that are banned from German-flagged ships.

“With an AK47 and a PKM you are the king of the sea,” he told the paper.

Till, like others working the ship scene, earns around €6,000 for a six-week trip – far more than he would have for the same tour of duty with the Bundeswehr. He is no longer in active service due to post traumatic stress syndrome, but by law soldiers have to tell the army if they are working for a private security firm for five years after leaving.

An army paramedic identified as Marcel K., told the FAZ that when working on ships his colleagues had included soldiers, police officers and customs workers. Most were, he said, looking to make extra money. He soon found that he could earn more money working freelance on land – being a “combat medic” in a war zone could get him €8,000 per month.

He added that in his experience, mercenary soldiers did not fill the testosterone-fuelled, trigger-happy image portrayed in the media. Rather, most tended to be family men out to earn extra money, or adventurous types in it for the experience.

Outside of Germany, security firms in Britain and the US are said to be fond of hiring German military personnel – particularly elite soldiers – although the country’s defence ministry denied knowledge of this.

A spokesman from the ministry contradicted the newspaper, saying it knew of “no active soldiers working for private firms.” But while soldiers are well-informed of what they may and may not do, the army does not keep tabs on them during leave.

Soldiers wishing to work elsewhere may only do so with permission from their superiors, but since the defence ministry said there were none registered this suggests that the “dozens” cited by the FAZ were doing so illegally.

The Local/jcw

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CRIME

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

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