Art dealer on trial for swindling Aldi heir

A German art dealer went on trial Tuesday accused of defrauding one of the country's richest families of tens of millions in the sales of paintings and vintage cars.

Art dealer on trial for swindling Aldi heir
Helge Achenbach arriving in court. Photo: DPA

Helge Achenbach, 62, who has been in pre-trial detention for about six months, denies the accusations against him, which carry a maximum jail term of 10 years.

The art consultant's contested deals included paintings by Pablo Picasso, Roy Lichtenstein and Gerhard Richter, while the vintage car sales were of Ferraris, Bentleys and Jaguars, Spiegel reported.

Prosecutors accuse Achenbach of more than 20 counts of fraud, as well as charges of forgery and breach of trust, in the trial in Essen, the court said in a statement.

The state charges that he defrauded the late Berthold Albrecht, heir to the Aldi Nord supermarket empire, of €22.5 million ($27.7 million) in the sales of 14 artworks and nine cars, by deceiving his client about the original purchase prices.

Achenbach is also accused of having defrauded two other wealthy customers in art deals, the court said.

In the dock with him is a former business partner, identified by the court only as Stefan H. in keeping with German reporting rules for criminal defendants.

In a separate civil case, before a court in the defendant's home city of Düsseldorf, the family of supermarket tycoon Albrecht, who died in 2012, is suing Achenbach for almost €20 million in damages.

The Essen court has set an initial eight further court hearings until January 21.

SEE ALSO: Swiss museum accepts art looted by Nazis

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Germany cracks down on fake Covid vaccine documents

German police have set up a special team to fight a growing number of forged vaccine certificates being sold in the black market

Germany cracks down on fake Covid vaccine documents
People who are fully vaccinated can show their vaccination booklet, which has a stamp and a sticker inside. Photo: Ina FASSBENDER / AFP

Police in Cologne have warned of a group of fraudsters selling fake vaccination certificates, a growing problem the scale of which is still unclear.

The police said the fraudsters worked in encrypted Telegram chats, making investigations difficult, and were selling fake documents with all the stamps and signatures, including a mark about vaccination with BioNTech or AstraZeneca.

READ ALSO: Germany probes Covid-19 testing centres for fraud

The fraud involved both real traffic in fake documents as well as scams luring customers into paying €100.

People in Germany who are fully vaccinated can show their vaccination booklet, which has a stamp and a sticker inside. Those who don’t have a booklet get a piece of paper.

Covid health passes are currently being rolled out across the EU, with a European health passport expected to be available from mid-June.

READ ALSO: What’s the latest on how the EU’s ‘Covid passports’ will work for travellers?

Over 44% of the adult population in Germany has received at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, and more than 18% of Germans have been fully vaccinated.

German police have said forged coronavirus vaccine documents are becoming an increasing problem.

Last month, a couple in Baden-Württemberg was accused of selling fake coronavirus vaccination certificates.