Former German spy chiefadmits bribe-taking 'lapse'

28th June 2005, Comments 0 comments

28 June 2005, AUGSBURG - Citing what he called an "inexplicable lapse", a one-time top Bonn espionage official admitted to a court in southern Germany on Tuesday that he accepted millions of euros in bribes for sales of German military hardware overseas.

28 June 2005

AUGSBURG - Citing what he called an "inexplicable lapse", a one-time top Bonn espionage official admitted to a court in southern Germany on Tuesday that he accepted millions of euros in bribes for sales of German military hardware overseas.

Ludwig-Holger Pfahls, 62, who was caught last year in Paris after five years on the run from German investigators, entered a guilty plea after the court in Augsburg informed him that, by doing so, he would be sentenced to no more than 25 months in prison.

"This was an unexplainable lapse for which I am profoundly sorry," he told the court at the beginning of proceedings.

He told the court more than a million dollars in bribes for sales of armoured vehicles to the United States was funnelled into a Swiss bank account.

He is also charged with taking around EUR 2 million in bribes for sales of armoured personnel carriers to Saudi Arabia in 1991 and then evading taxes on that income. He claims the Saudi bribes were necessary to expedite the transaction.

His defence attorneys meanwhile said they hoped to subpoena former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl and longtime Foreign Minister Hans- Dietrich Genscher to testify during the 12 days of proceedings. They maintain that Kohl and Genscher could explain the need for haste in the 1991 transaction that resulted in bribery.

Pfahls, a former judge, was one of the high fliers of the former German capital, Bonn. After a term as head of the German domestic counter-espionage agency BfV, he became junior minister at the Defence Ministry.

After retiring from public life in 1992, he joined DaimlerChrysler as a senior executive, first in Brussels and then in Singapore. Then he simply vanished, last seen in Asia, and stayed out of sight for five years, apparently with a false identity.

Germany put the man who knew some of its most sensitive secrets on the international criminal wanted list.

Pfahls, who was finally tracked down last summer in Paris, stands accused of bribe-taking and failing to declare the bribe as taxable income.

The prosecution indictment says Pfahl received some EUR 2 million as a bribe from Karlheinz Schreiber, a German lobbyist believed to have set up the armoured- vehicle sale.

Germany, which has strict laws against exporting arms to zones of conflict, approved a sale of 36 Fuchs armoured reconnaissance vehicles to Saudi Arabia despite high-level opposition.

The wheeled ARVs (Armed Robotic Vehicles) are designed to check battlegrounds for nuclear, biological and chemical poisons before troops deploy. At the time, the Saudis were concerned that they might face a chemical attack from Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

Pfahls, as a state secretary, had oversight over arms control policy and put his stamp of approval on the deal, worth about EUR 223 million, despite the fact that then Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher and German military leaders opposed it.

DPA

Subject: German news

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