Germany urges China: treat our man better

Germany's justice minister called on Tuesday for the fair treatment of a man who has been sat in Beijing prison for the past three months on suspicion of art smuggling.

Germany urges China: treat our man better
Photo: DPA

But according to media reports, the case might be being used to curb tax evasion in the art world.

Police held Nils Jennrich, 32, on March 29 and formally detained him on May 7 for allegedly under-reporting the value of imported art to evade 10 million yuan in taxes, lawyer Nancy Murphy said. A Chinese colleague was also detained.

Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger told Die Welt newspaper in an interview to be published Wednesday that Jennrich was being kept in “unacceptable” conditions that did not meet international standards.

She has asked officials in Beijing if he could “be released on bail, or at least be granted house arrest.”

A document from customs police said Jennrich was “accused of violating various anti-smuggling provisions of the laws and regulations,” Murphy told AFP.

Jennrich worked in Beijing as general manager for Hong Kong-based Integrated Fine Arts Solutions.

The company imports a small amount of art, while focusing on providing storage for mainly Chinese pieces belonging to clients, according to managing director Torsten Hendricks. While undervaluing imported artwork might be practised among individual collectors in China, he said, his company rarely handled such clients.

“It doesn’t make sense,” he said. “Most of the goods stored in our warehouse, again, nearly 95 per cent, were of Chinese origin.”

Investigators have until December to present charges to prosecutors who will then have three months to determine whether to pursue the case, she said. Jennrich has been denied bail.

The sentence for evading more than 500,000 yuan in duties ranges from 10 years to life, though courts may issue lighter sentences, according to Yang Wei, another lawyer representing Jennrich.

Other companies and collectors have recently faced questioning about evading import taxes, suggesting a broader crackdown, said Murphy.

Jennrich has received visits from the German ambassador and other embassy officials, a German foreign ministry spokeswoman said.

Customs officials did not respond immediately to a request for comment.

AFP/DPA/The Local/jcw

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Germany in talks on further payout for 1972 Olympics victims

The German government says it is in talks over further compensation for victims of the attack on the Munich Olympics, as the 50th anniversary of the atrocity approaches.

Germany in talks on further payout for 1972 Olympics victims

Ahead of the commemoration in September, relatives of the Israelis killed have indicated they are unhappy with what Germany is offering.

“Conversations based on trust are taking place with representatives of the victims’ families,” a German interior ministry spokesman told AFP when asked about the negotiations.

He did not specify who would benefit or how much money had been earmarked, saying only that any package would “again” be financed by the federal government, the state of Bavaria and the city of Munich.

On September 5th, 1972, eight gunmen broke into the Israeli team’s flat at the Olympic village, shooting dead two and taking nine Israelis hostage, threatening to kill them unless 232 Palestinian prisoners were released.

West German police responded with a bungled rescue operation in which all nine hostages were killed, along with five of the eight hostage-takers and a police officer.

An armed police officer in a tracksuit secures the block where terrorists  held Israeli hostages at the Olympic Village in Munich on 5th September 1972.

An armed police officer in a tracksuit secures the block where terrorists held Israeli hostages at the Olympic Village in Munich on 5th September 1972. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Horst Ossingert

The spokeswoman for the victims’ families, Ankie Spitzer, told the German media group RND that the amount currently on the table was “insulting” and threatened a boycott of this year’s commemorations.

She said Berlin was offering a total of €10 million including around €4.5 million already provided in compensation between 1972 and 2002 — an amount she said did not correspond to international standards. 

“We are angry and disappointed,” said Spitzer, the widow of fencing coach Andre Spitzer who was killed in the attack. “We never wanted to talk publicly about money but now we are forced to.”

RND reported that the German and Israeli governments would like to see an accord by August 15th.

The interior ministry spokesman said that beyond compensation, Germany intended to use the anniversary for fresh “historical appraisal, remembrance and recognition”.

He said this would include the formation of a commission of German and Israeli historians to “comprehensively” establish what happened “from the perspective of the year 2022”.

This would lead to “an offer of further acts of acknowledgement of the relatives of the victims of the attack” and the “grave consequences” they suffered.