Nine months ago, Munich prosecutors escaped Germany’s most wanted suspected economic criminal. The arrest warrant against Jan Marsalek, who is considered to be the main mastermind behind the obvious billion-dollar fraud at Wirecard, came three days late. Such a thing should not be repeated. And that also explains why the Munich Public Prosecutor’s Office is resorting to unusual means and taking tough action in a financially much smaller, but politically at least as big affair.
In the mask affair at the CSU, the investigators overheard a business partner of the state parliament member Alfred Sauter on the phone. And then, from an eavesdropped conversation, the conclusion was drawn that Sauter’s business partner might be able to move abroad. Then everything went very quickly: The Munich Higher Regional Court issued an arrest warrant on Wednesday due to the risk of escape, which was carried out on Thursday, and the suspect was placed in custody.
It remains to be seen whether this applies to the risk of escape. Likewise, whether the accusation of bribery and the corruption of members of parliament is true. Sauter and Georg Nüßlein, member of the Bundestag, who left the CSU because of the affair, brokered business with corona protective masks with three ministries in Bavaria and in the federal government for a Hessian company. There were then high commissions for this. The Attorney General regards this as a bribe. Sauter, Nüßlein and their three business partners in the deal, which are also being investigated, deny this. Everything was legal.
When the “TKÜ” is used
It is more and more common for investigators to tap into phone calls not only for capital crimes such as murder and manslaughter, robbery and extortion, but also for suspected economic crimes. Now, for the first time, when there is suspicion of corruption and bribery of elected officials. Here, too, the investigators can secretly overhear on the phone what they have now done in the mask affair. However, according to all that can be learned, the eavesdropping was not directed at the MPs Sauter and Nüßlein. Their phones were apparently not tapped.
Telecommunications surveillance (TKÜ), as it is called in the Code of Criminal Procedure, was used by German investigators, for example in the Cum-Ex tax scandal. And also in the emissions affair at the Volkswagen subsidiary Audi. Almost three years ago, Audi CEO Rupert Stadler was overheard there, which ultimately cost him his managerial post. From a telephone call between Stadler and a colleague in the VW group, the Munich II public prosecutor concluded that Stadler wanted to hinder the investigation. Back then, too, in mid-2018, everything went very quickly: arrest warrant, remand.
The difference between the mask affair and the exhaust gas affair: At Stadler, there was no talk of the risk of escape, but of the risk of blackout. The investigators feared that the Audi boss could influence possible witnesses from the company and thus thwart the investigation. Stadler denied this and was released after four months. Today he is on trial in Munich with other Audi people on suspicion of fraud. Stadler rejects all allegations. According to those familiar with the mask case, this also applies to the Sauter business partner who has now been arrested. His lawyer did not want to comment on request.