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CRIME

Three jailed in Germany for huge beer smuggling operation into UK

For over a year, three men snuck beer into Britain while pretending to sell it in northern Bavaria. The problem? Nowhere on earth has as many breweries as northern Bavaria.

Three jailed in Germany for huge beer smuggling operation into UK
Photo: DPA

A court in Hof, Bavaria on Wednesday condemned the men to jail sentences ranging between two years, and three years and three months, broadcaster Bayerische Rundfunk reports.

The smugglers' ruse was simple. In Britain tax on beer is 13 times as high as it is in Germany, so if they could pay German tax while selling the beer in Britain they stood to make a lot of money.

To do this they had around 80 trucks arrive at their shipping company headquarters in Bavaria each week, all loaded with foreign beer. On the company books these beverages went down as imports from France and a German tax rate was paid accordingly.

In truth though the lorries were simply circulating the same bottles of beer between the shipping company and a storage facility 80 kilometres down the road.

At the same time, they were buying beer in France, but the destination was not Germany, but the UK. Once they smuggled it, into Britain they sold it off on the black market for a tidy profit.

But German customs became suspicious in 2014 as they simply couldn't comprehend how 80 truck loads of foreign beer were being sold each week in northern Bavaria – as the judge pointed out during her ruling, there is no other place on earth that has such a concentration of breweries.

In December last year, the authorities finally moved in, raiding the shipping company. All three men have sat in jail ever since.

Through this deceit, the smugglers were able to avoid €23 million in tax, the court found. The men had acted with “a high level of criminal energy,” the judge said.

The eventual sentences went well beyond the punishment of a maximum two-year jail term called for by the prosecution.

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GERMANY AND ISRAEL

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.

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