Further to previous exposés about RaFa, the convicted criminal of choice for all online reputation management needs of the Boliburgeoisie chosen by Bundesdruckerei (BDR) as its representative in Venezuela, Der Spiegel piles on the pressure today, with an article questioning Germany's position on the matter. As the subheading has it, "Doch das Finanzministerium, zustiindig fur den Konzern, greift nicht ein", it would appear that Germany's Ministry of Finance, authority in charge of overseeing that BDR as a State-owned concern complies with certain regulations, just does not care about the questionable past, associations and practices of RaFa.
What does this say about Ms Merkel's government? Is this another case of "we are all in this together"? When confronted with such damning evidence of corruption, wrongdoing, lack of credentials and criminal records, as presumably Der Spiegel journalists did with Germany's Ministry of Finance authorities, how come they have failed to intervene? Is the prospect of gaining business from the chavista revolution so appealing as to make Germany's government behave in such dishonourable way?
Since I am quoted in the article, I have asked Der Spiegel for comments made by Ministry of Finance officials, which I shall post here once I get them.
UPDATE 16 April, 2014, 10:36 GMT: Prior to publication of this story I spoke with Jörg Schmitt, journalist at Der Spiegel. We shared some information about RaFa, his criminal past, and his new role representing Bundesdruckerei in Venezuela. To any journalist such an appointment is scandalous, to say the least, specially considering that BDR is owned by the German State. Schmitt sent a series of questions to the Bundesfinanzministerium (Germany's Finance Ministry), asking:
- When was BDR current CEO contract approved, and when was such appointment approved by Supervisory Board from Finance Ministry?
- Was the Ministry of Finance aware that, before raid into BDR's offices prompted by Mr Baumgartl's wrongdoing in Venezuela deals, law firm Erbe Partners from Postdam prepared Mr Baumgartl for possible questioning?
- In the context of previous question, are you aware that representatives from Erbe told BDR staff how to behave in a possible search by investigating authorities?
- Is the Ministry of Finance aware of who is BDR's commercial representative in Venezuela since 2012?
The set of questions above were answered in typical civil servant speak: that is dodge, dodge some more, obfuscate, quote some irrelevant piece of legislation, but never answer the question. As it turns, the much touted for its transparency Bundesrepublik has its fair share of bureaucrats that simply refuse to submit to accountability, and Herr Schmitt bumped into one of them at the Finance Ministry. It is extremely concerning to learn that a law firm could have known in advance, and tipped/prepared, BDR staff before a police raid took place.
But the most vexing aspect of it all, is one sentence in the answers set to Schmitt, which he kindly shared with me. The Finance Ministry claimed:
"Themen von Aufsichtsratssitzungen unterliegen der Vertraulichkeit."
That means: matters related to the supervisory board of BDR's are confidential. How could matters of meetings of a supervisory board of public servants in relation to a company owned by the German State be confidential? Isn't that supervisory board a body representing the interests of the German State, through the Ministry of Finance? How can they possibly claim confidentiality in matters pertaining the running of a public company, supervised by public servants?
I had to re read and be sure of it. I went back to Schmitt for confirmation. Mind you, is this Germany we are talking about, or chavista Venezuela? No wonder BDR has RaFa as its Venezuelan representative, he must be feeling right at home. And it turned even worse: the suit from the Finance Ministry said that questions pertaining BDR's business abroad, representatives, operational aspects and so on fall within BDR's remit and discretion, and do not concern its sole shareholder. That's right. In Germany, operations of publicly owned companies do not make part of the German State's responsibilities. Just like PDVSA in Venezuela. The business world would be wise to learn this policy.
To boot, the Finance Ministry's Supervisory Board, which is the "independent" body in charge of keeping tabs on what BDR does, has one member whose track record gives the whole game away: August Hanning. Herr Hanning is known as the man behind Germany's post modern secret service. So let me spell it out: Deutschland's Mister Sicherheit sits on the board meant to supervise BDR. Is it any wonder how BDR's Baumgartl got wind that a raid was coming? In another installment of the #youcantmakethisshitup series, Hanning's boss, for many years prior to his joining BDR's Supervisory Board, was Finance Minister and former leader of CDU Wolfgang Schäeuble, mind you the same one who said he was "pleased" by ICIJ's exposé on offshore companies dodging taxes. BDR is the proverbial example of a German business using offshore shell companies to dodge taxes and partake in corruption in other countries, as findings of BDR's Jörg Baumgartl activities show. Then German officials go around pontificating... What a shambles this is.