He is alleged to have defrauded German government of R96 million
HE WAS a high-flyer in German social circles, a man who used a private jet from one meeting to the next and drove fancy cars.
But, to the Somerset West, Western Cape, congregation of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Michael Helmuth Gunter Schreiber was just an old man living a simple life in a twobedroom duplex with his mildly disabled adopted daughter and her two children.
With a knife-sharpening business with a turnover of about R8 000 a month and driving a 2000 Nissan Sentra, 63year-old Schreiber looked nothing like a high-flyer.
However, Schreiber, a staunch member of the church, was hiding a very big secret: he was wanted in his home country, Germany, to serve the rest of his sentence there for allegedly defrauding the government of
€ 10 million (R96m), and had been on the run since 2003.
It is not known where the money is now. But German authorities suspect it could be tied up in either Dubai or Malaysia. Dubai is one of the places Schreiber first went to after fleeing Germany. He later went to Malaysia.
Schreiber is not known to have bought property while in Somerset West, and police said the business as well as the car were registered in the name of an elderly friend who lives in a retirement home. He did not even have a bank account.
Schreiber took along his Turkish-born adopted daughter when he fled Germany.
Schreiber’s fugitive life came to an end when he was arrested on August 18 in front of his astonished fellow congregants in church.
Police also found he had been using a different name and had a Polish passport with another name.
He was taken into custody, released on bail and later held under house arrest until two officials from Germany accompanied him back to Berlin on October 15.
He is alleged to have been a mastermind in a ring of fraudsters who committed tax fraud.
It is believed the group of about 10 people had provided services to the government and had later made false tax claims. The members of the ring were bust, arrested, convicted and sentenced.
Colonel Tummi Shai of Interpol South Africa said Schreiber had arrived in South Africa in April 2003 and had lain low all this time.
She said the German government did not want to give more details on the crimes Schreiber had committed.
However, Shai confirmed that at some point after his arrest, Schreiber had served a prison sentence, but had not finished it.
“He was extradited back to Berlin on October 15 and will serve the remaining prison sentence of 1 035 days out of an original sentence of seven years,” she said.
A representative of the Ministry of Law in Berlin, Michael Kanert, told The Star that he had never heard of the Schreiber case, but that even if he had, he would not impart information on the matter as German law did not allow it.
While Schreiber has gone back to serve the remainder of his sentence in Germany, his daughter and her children have remained in South Africa.
By Botho Molosankwe
21/10/10 Late Edition