Former foreign minister testifies at bribery trial

2nd August 2005, Comments 0 comments

2 August 2005, AUGSBURG, GERMANY - Former German Foreign Minister Hans- Dietrich Genscher took the witness stand Tuesday at the trial of a one-time top Bonn espionage official who has admitted taking millions in bribes during the early 1990s.

2 August 2005

AUGSBURG, GERMANY - Former German Foreign Minister Hans- Dietrich Genscher took the witness stand Tuesday at the trial of a one-time top Bonn espionage official who has admitted taking millions in bribes during the early 1990s.

Shedding little new light on the affair, Genscher told the court in Augsburg he had no direct knowledge of illicit kickbacks being taken 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, admitted at the start of proceedings June 28 that he had taken some EUR 2 million in bribes for deals with Saudi Arabia and the United States for delivery of armoured vehicles.

Genscher told the court, "I never spoke directly with Herr Pfahls at the time and never heard anything from anyone else that any sort of pressure had been exerted."

Pfahls has claimed the Saudi bribes were necessary to expedite the transaction, saying he was under pressure to arrange speedy deals. He denies accusations of influence-peddling, saying he had no influence to peddle.

The highlight of the 12 days of scheduled proceedings comes Wednesday when former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl takes the stand.

Pfahls's lawyers maintain that Kohl and Genscher can 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 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 agents 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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