‘Horror Landlord’ politician could face jail

A German politician turned landlord has been charged with fraud for massively overcharging his welfare benefit tenants and even renting out uninhabitable cellars as flats.

'Horror Landlord' politician could face jail
Photo: DPA

The man identified in the Hamburger Morgenpost newspaper as Thorsten Kuhlmann, a former politician for Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU), was in court on Friday facing civil charges for more than half a million euros.

But this was just the first of 13 cases against him. It was also announced on Friday that he would face 223 criminal fraud charges concerning damages of €370,000, Wilhelm Möllers, spokesman for the public prosecutor said.

The Hamburger Morgenpost said he could face up to ten years in prison if convicted.

He had up to 400 flats across the city, renting out hundreds of them at inflated prices by declaring them as bigger than they were, or declaring them as flats when they were cellars, it is alleged.

The Hamburg Jobcentre, which pays rent for those on benefits in the city, including many of Kuhlmann’s tenants, is suing in the civil case for damages of €670,000 for the inflated rent he charged – and in the cases of the cellars, for all the money paid.

Kuhlmann was dubbed by the local press as the “Horror Landlord” for the terrible condition of some of the flats he rented to benefit recipients, drug addicts and homeless people when the scandal was uncovered in 2010.

He has already repaid more than €100,000 into a special bank account as security, the Hamburger Morgenpost reported.

The Local/DPA/jcw/hc

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EU ministers urge unity after Germany’s energy ‘bazooka’

EU finance ministers on Monday pleaded for unity after Germany announced a €200 billion plan to help German households and businesses pay for high energy prices, amid accusations that the EU's biggest economy was acting alone.

EU ministers urge unity after Germany's energy 'bazooka'

Europe is struggling with historically high energy prices as it faces an early autumn cold snap and a coming winter almost certainly to be endured without crucial Russian gas supplies because of the war in Ukraine.

Many EU countries have announced national programmes to shield consumers from the high prices. But Germany went the furthest on Friday when it announced its mammoth plan, which will see help pouring to Germans for two years.

Arriving to talk with his eurozone counterparts, German Finance Minister Christian Lindner insisted the spending was “proportionate” to the size of Germany’s economy and said his goal was to use as little of the money as possible.

READ ALSO: Germany to spend €200 billion to cap soaring energy costs

But Germany’s largesse rankled several EU capitals, some of which feared their industries could take severe blows while Germany’s sits protected, deforming the EU’s single market.

Outgoing Italian prime minister Mario Draghi has slammed Berlin for its lack of solidarity and coordination with EU partners.

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire, without directly criticizing Berlin, called on partners to agree a common strategy against the price shock and for countries to refrain from going it alone.

“The more this strategy is coordinated, united, the better it is for all of us,” he said.

Risk to ‘European unity’

Others pointed to the unprecedented solidarity shown in the Covid-19 crisis in which the 27 EU nations, against all expectations, approved a jointly financed €750 billion recovery plan.

“Solidarity is not only on the German shoulders, I think this is something that we have to deliver at European level,” said EU economics affairs commissioner Paolo Gentiloni.

“We have very good examples from the previous crisis on how solidarity can react to a crisis and also reassure financial markets. I think that this is our goal,” he said.

While a Covid-style recovery plan is not in the cards for now, Le Maire said €200 billion in loans and €20 billion in aid should be devoted to REPowerEU, a programme to help countries break their dependence on Russian gas.

READ ALSO: Will Germany set a gas price cap – and how would it work?

Bruegel, a highly influential think tank in Brussels, called the German plan a spending “bazooka” that many EU countries were unable to match, creating a potential source of animosity.

“If the German gas price brake gives German business a much better chance to survive the crisis than, say, Italian business, economic divergences in the EU could be deepened, and European unity on Russia undermined,” it said in a blog.