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'Fish mafia' jailed over 'sandwich war'

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'Fish mafia' jailed over 'sandwich war'
The culinary delight at the heart of the "war". Photo: DPA
16:21 CET+01:00
Two men have been sentenced to jail after taking part in a so-called 'fish sandwich war' in north Germany, which saw organized criminals battling for the right to sell tourists delicious seaside snacks.

A 31-year-old man has been sentenced to 25 months in prison after he was found guilty of attacking and injuring Heinz-Dieter Hartlieb, deputy mayor of Stralsund, with a baton in July 2012.

His 36-year-old accomplice was found guilty of planting a fake bomb outside the Department of Planning and Building Control, for which he will serve nine months.

The bomb had TNT inside but no detonator. Attached was a threatening letter addressed to Hartlieb.

The men were accused of using violence and intimidation in an attempt to scare off any competition in the highly lucrative fish sandwich trade at the harbour.

Prosecutors alleged that they belonged to a"fish mafia", and had been carrying out orders from some sort of codfather.

That was contested by the pair's defence lawyer, and ultimately the pair weren't convicted for intimidation or elimination of competition.

But there had been a pattern of violence in Stralsund ever since Hartlieb had attempted to increase the number of licences for the sale of fish sandwiches, hoping to make just-starting-out minnows safe from the monsters dominating the market.

Both a boat and car belonging to a family who had recently opened up shop were set on fire, and an acid was thrown at a hotel run by the same family.

The value of the damage was estimated at around €60,000.

Boats selling the tasty snacks can net as much as €200,000 a year selling them to the hundreds of thousands of tourists who visit Stralsund looking for rest and relaxation.

That's what prosecutors said tempted local sharks, who savagely beat the deputy mayor with a baton as he left his house, causing him severe injuries to the legs and head.

Hartlieb has been under police protection ever since.

A trial began after police reeled in the culprits in 2013, with the men condemned to lengthy jail sentences.

But it had since been re-opened because the Supreme Court ruled the judge had been wrong to dismiss an alibi given at the last moment by one of the accused's parents.

While the 36-year-old was cleared of the charge of inciting the attack on Hartlieb carried out by the other accused, he is already serving a sentence of three and a half years for extortion by means of force.

by Matty Edwards

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