The man, dubbed the “trash baron,” by local media, was originally contracted to re-cultivate several old landfills in Brandenburg state by filling them with stones, gravel and other organic material.
But looking for a quick buck, the man, named only as Bernd R., began inviting businesses to send him their dirtiest garbage – plastics, textiles and even medical waste, which he dumped at the sites.
Prosecutors said he took 3,420 truckloads of the trash to the dumping sites – more than 100,000 tons of garbage in all causing €73 million in environmental damage. Between 2005 and 2007 he made €4.3 million from the scheme, they charged.
Employees described Bernd R. as a strict boss who closely monitored their work and knew exactly what he was doing.
Those who questioned his business practices were threatened with the sack or defamation lawsuits.
He also tricked or bribed government officials to prevent them from reporting what he was doing. Bernd R. even created an elaborate system of fake documents to throw investigators off his trail, prosecutors said.
Bernd R. asked for leniency because he had made a confession and because local authorities had failed to monitor what he was doing at the landfills, according to the Potsdamer Neueste Nachrichten newspaper.
But though the judge, Frank Tiemann, agreed that officials may have overlooked what was happening, he sent Bernd R. to prison for four years and three months.