Broadcaster WDR first reported about the case, revealing that the 74-year-old had allegedly threatened to poison candy using cyanide last December if the two companies didn’t pay him €1 million. Prosecutors have said that there has at no point been a danger to the public.
“Haribo has at all times cooperated with the investigation,” a company spokesperson said.
“As the police have also confirmed, there has at no time been a threat to our consumers.”
According to WDR, the man attached signs to different products from the two companies, reading “careful, poison”, and left the items in multiple stores. Haribo “Gold Bears” and Kaufland pizzas were reportedly some of the main targets.
The man had also reportedly ordered and paid for cyanide on the darknet, though he did not receive it.
He had sent his demands to the companies by mail at first, and then by email, according to WDR. But by this point, he was already on police radar.
The man was arrested on Christmas Eve and reportedly said he was having financial difficulties. He had also reportedly tried to extort money from supermarket chain Lidl.
“My client receives a pension of about €180, his wife €900. That is not close to enough to live on,” said the pensioner's lawyer, Thomas Ohm.
“When after a doctor's visit he didn't have enough money to buy the medicine at the pharmacy, he became so desperate that extortion for him was the last resort. He did not intend to hurt anyone.”
The man was released from custody after filing a complaint. WDR reported that the man is set to be charged soon, but DPA reported that if and when this will happen is not yet clear.
“If and when we will charge him is unclear,” said a prosecutor’s office spokesperson.