Prosecutors suspect corruption at US air base

25th August 2005, Comments 0 comments

25 August 2005, KAISERSLAUTERN, GERMANY - German prosecutors said Thursday they had expanded an inquiry into possible corruption during construction work at the giant U.S. air force base at Ramstein near the French border. Five land-office employees of Germany's Rhineland-Palatinate state have been suspended during the inquiry, which also involves eight construction industry figures and two locally engaged employees of the U.S. military. The prosecutors said the state was a party to the building contracts.

25 August 2005

KAISERSLAUTERN, GERMANY - German prosecutors said Thursday they had expanded an inquiry into possible corruption during construction work at the giant U.S. air force base at Ramstein near the French border.

Five land-office employees of Germany's Rhineland-Palatinate state have been suspended during the inquiry, which also involves eight construction industry figures and two locally engaged employees of the U.S. military.

The prosecutors said the state was a party to the building contracts. German state governments have helped to fund a relocation of U.S. Air Force operations from Frankfurt international airport to Ramstein, which is in remote countryside.

Senior prosecutor Paul-Gerald Scheidner said public bodies may have been overcharged the equivalent of EUR 5 million. Possible charges include both bribery and fraud.

He said prosecutors received an anonymous tip-off in February from someone who evidently had close knowledge of numerous "irregularities" between 1997 and 2001 during construction of a new passenger terminal and aprons costing EUR 50 million.

Construction companies had been paid supplements that took the final costs 20 to 25 per cent higher than the tenders. These surcharges could not be explained by design changes. The inquiry was to discover whether any bribes had been paid.

The United States is expected to expand the base further, taking over duties from other U.S. bases at Mildenhall in England and Aviano in Italy. The base is a major staging post for U.S. forces flying to Iraq.

Although there has been no announcement, a member of the German parliament, Elke Leonhard, representing a district in Rhineland- Palatinate, said Wednesday Ramstein had won the go-ahead.

About 14,000 U.S. troops plus 17,000 family members are based at Ramstein, which has been the U.S. Air Force's headquarters in Europe for the past three decades. The United States operates two other airbases in Germany, at Frankfurt and Spangdahlem.

DPA

Subject: German news

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