Former chancellor Kohl must testify in bribes trial

5th July 2005, Comments 0 comments

5 July 2005, AUGSBURG, GERMANY - A court in southern Germany Tuesday subpoenaed former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl to testify at the trial of a one-time top Bonn espionage official who has admitted taking millions in bribes during the early 1990s.

5 July 2005

AUGSBURG, GERMANY - A court in southern Germany Tuesday subpoenaed former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl to testify at the trial of a one-time top Bonn espionage official who has admitted taking millions in bribes during the early 1990s.

The court in Augsburg announced it had accepted a defence request to summon Kohl, who was the German leader during the time that the kickbacks were being taken for sales of German military hardware overseas.

Kohl, along with former German foreign ministers Hans-Dietrich Genscher and Klaus Kinkel, as well as one-time finance minister Theo Waigel, are to appear in court on July 26.

Ludwig-Holger Pfahls, 62, who was caught last year in Paris after five years on the run from German investigators, admitted at the start of proceedings June 28 that he had taken some USD 2.5 million (EUR 2.1 million) in bribes for deals with Saudi Arabia and the United States for delivery of armoured vehicles.

He entered that plea after the court in Augsburg informed him that, by doing so, he would be sentenced to no more than 25 months in prison.

He claims the Saudi bribes were necessary to expedite the transaction, saying he was under pressure to arrange speedy deals.

His defence attorneys asked the court to subpoena Kohl and longtime foreign minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher to testify during the 12 days of proceedings.

Pfahls's lawyers 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, after having been 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 Pfahls 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 Genscher and German military leaders opposed it.

DPA

Subject: German news

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