Thais send kidnapper to face Munich justice

Thai authorities will deliver a man to Germany later this week to stand trial on accusations of kidnapping the wife of a Bavarian banker to finance his lavish lifestyle abroad.

Thais send kidnapper to face Munich justice
A photo used by police to track alleged kidnapper Mario S. Photo: DPA

Thai police said they arrested 52-year-old Mario S. near the city of Chiang Mai on Friday on suspicion of kidnapping a 46-year-old woman and demanding millions in ransom money.

He had boarded a plane to Thailand on the same day that he committed the crime – but that wasn't enough to save him from the long arm of the Munich police.

“He wasn't bad – but we were better,” Markus Kraus, leader of the Munich police homicide unit, said on Monday.

Thai media reported that Mario – originally from North Rhine-Westphalia – will be transferred to Munich later in the week. Thai police were able to arrest him after the German embassy in Bangkok cancelled his passport.

Prosecutors in the Bavarian capital have launched an investigation for unlawful detention, kidnapping for the purpose of blackmail and attempted serious blackmail, charges which could see the accused jailed for between five and 15 years.

A missing million

On the morning of June 10th, the kidnapper attacked his victim, the wife of a Sparkasse bank manager, with an imitation firearm and drove her away in her car, leaving her son tied up at the house.

German-language Thai news site Der Farang reported that Mario believed he was being scammed by the Sparkasse, where he had his accounts, and had recently failed to obtain a payment of €1.5 million he said was due.

The kidnapping was to have been revenge for this failure to award him what he believed was rightfully his.

But the woman was able to get free and escape when the criminal stopped the car at a car park in Munich.

'Beard better than balaclava'

Cameras at the car park and in the S-Bahn train he used to travel to the scene of the kidnapping caught the man on film.

While the images show a man with a beard, suspect Mario S. has since shaved his off, Kraus said, making recognizing him difficult for witnesses and complicating the police search.

“We believe that he deliberately grew out his beard [before committing the crime]” the detective chief said.

“A beard is better than a balaclava [for hiding one's identity].”

Kraus said that information stored under controversial “Vorratsdatenspeicherung” (data retention) rules had helped to catch Mario S., without giving any further details.

Mario has lived in northern Thailand near the city of Chiang Mai with his wife for several years.

Investigators suspect that he travelled to Munich and rented a flat for the sole purpose of keeping the bank manager's wife while he conducted his blackmail.

Munich police got onto his trail after finding a contract for a prepaid phone in Mario's name in the rubbish outside the building.

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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.