Target investigators are amazingly successful. Quotas are not published, but the police say that 90 percent of those wanted will be found. This often takes a few weeks, but sometimes years. The worldwide police association Interpol is also looking for the Remmo brothers. Interpol announced this in Lyon, and the corresponding appeal had gone to the 194 member countries of the organization. However, the level of commitment and resources of the investigators varies from country to country.
The pressure to be persecuted is high in Germany. After the spectacular theft from Dresden’s famous treasury museum in November 2019, Saxony offered a total of 500,000 euros in rewards to catch the perpetrators, although any tipsters do not necessarily receive the full amount. Neither the police headquarters of the federal states nor the Federal Criminal Police Office talk about the number of active target investigators.
The officers are not enough to search intensively for all those wanted: Every year more than 150,000 men and women are written out for arrest. Most volunteer, others are found – largely undramatic – during a routine check. Many were wanted for unpaid fines.
However, those who are assigned to organized gangs, have committed serious acts or are considered dangerous are being searched for with high pressure. A team of investigators then works their way through the biography of the wanted, but also their contacts. Are there any known addictions, hobbies, diseases? Where do relatives, friends live? What about online activities?
Are the Remmos trying to escape to Lebanon?
The Remmos are “well lit,” as a Berlin investigator says. Many suspects in the large German-Arab family have been noticed in everyday life for years: loud mobbing, aggressive driving, amateurish acts. Relatives are regularly observed and apartments searched. Even if those currently wanted behaved conspiratorially, the investigators know all sorts of details from the family life of the clan.
“Experience has shown that suspects who have their center of life in a city cannot go underground forever,” says Carsten Milius from the Bund Deutscher Kriminalbeamter. However, the wanted “could be protected and supported by a whole network of extremely experienced police officers and clan members”.
The Remmos have the advantage that many relatives live in Beirut, so the family is networked in Lebanon, and most likely also in Turkey and Jordan. The Federal Republic of Germany maintains diplomatic relations with all three countries. However, that does not say whether those wanted from these countries will be extradited.
There is no extradition traffic with the government in Beirut, but in individual cases wanted persons can still be deported. According to the Dresden public prosecutor’s office, the Remmo brothers wanted are German and not a second citizenship.
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If the evidence that suspects have fled abroad grows, the target investigators contact the local authorities. In many countries there are liaison officers of the BKA, and the German embassy is also informed. The investigators then request legal assistance from the Federal Ministry of Justice. Because German officials can ask around on the spot, they are usually not armed – and arrests remain the privilege of the local state power.
Targeting has political components
Ultimately, it is a question of political will whether Lebanon deports someone to Germany. So good relationships help. Like the Reemtsma kidnapper Thomas Drach, who was found in Argentina in 1998. Or as with Jürgen Schneider, a fraudster with millions, arrested in the USA in 1995 and then deported.
It is also part of the truth that not all wanted will be caught. The alleged five-time murderer Norman Franz has been wanted for 20 years. And the right-wing terrorists of the NSU had persecuted target investigators from 1999 onwards, but not caught them – probably also because the investigators were not supported. The State Office for the Protection of the Constitution asked the police not to investigate right-wing extremists, “in order not to bring any unrest into the scene,” a Thuringian investigator said in 2013 in the Bundestag investigative committee.
Escape from Germany to Iraq – and back
Two cases from the Kurdish autonomous region in Iraq show that German target investigators can be unsuccessful in East Germany and successful in the Middle East. After Ali B. raped and murdered 14-year-old Susanna F. in 2018, his family fled with him to Kurdish northern Iraq. The target investigators informed the head of the Federal Police, which has good contacts with the Kurdish security forces. Ali B. was arrested, interrogated, and deported – without a diplomatic test of strength between the central government in Baghdad and the federal authorities in Berlin.
Something similar happened in 2010 when Giwar H. was searched for after an attack on a gold transporter near Ludwigsburg. Together with four robbers, H. captured 1.7 million euros. With the help of the BKA liaison officer in Moscow, the target investigators discovered that the wanted man had fled via Moscow to Erbil, the capital of the Iraqi Kurdish region. There he was arrested and extradited. Stuttgart’s regional court sentenced him to eight years in prison for serious robbery, dangerous bodily harm and deprivation of liberty.
Almost two weeks ago, 1,600 officials searched 18 apartments, garages and business premises in Berlin that are attributed to the Remmos. Three of the five suspects were arrested. The men, between 21 and 26 years old, are in custody. Arrest warrants for aggravated gang theft and arson had been issued against the three men and the two fugitives.