“Quid pro quo”: A text message in corruption proceedings could hardly be shorter and at the same time more incriminating. As prosecutor Johannes Schmidt explained when reading the indictment in the packed hearing room of the Frankfurt district court, it came from the former head of the Frankfurt workers' welfare organization (AWO), Hannelore Richter, and is addressed to Peter Feldmann (SPD), the scandal-ridden mayor of Germany's financial metropolis.
Since Tuesday morning, Feldmann has had to answer to the Economic Criminal Court for possible acceptance of an advantage, and of all things his long-standing business relationship and first-name friend Richter could be his undoing.
On the one hand, Feldmann is accused of hiring his then partner and now separated wife Zübeyde Feldmann as head of a German-Turkish daycare center under the umbrella of the AWO with a monthly salary of initially 4,500 euros, which is far above the collective bargaining agreement, part of which is said to have flowed to her husband. Later, for a period of a good two years, during which Ms. Feldmann was continuously on maternity leave, a company car was added, at times also a second employment contract with a salary of 450 euros, for which she did not have to provide any benefits at all.
Richter is said to have suggested the management position be given to a young professional who had not even completed her studies at the time, with the words "There we have our management for the German-Turkish day-care center!" when Feldmann told her at a dinner in the spring introduced his partner for the first time in 2014; in "tacit agreement" to buy a "benevolent" policy of the mayor towards the AWO. Such an agreement is also said to have existed in 2018, when the AWO collected donations for Feldmann's (successful) campaign for his re-election.
The allegations against Feldmann and his estranged wife, who is on trial in separate criminal proceedings, first became public in 2019. However, they are only part of the widespread corruption scandal surrounding the Frankfurt and Wiesbaden AWO branches.
In the meantime, this has cost the association in southern Hesse its non-profit status and brought several local politicians and the former association management around the Richter couple to the dock. The latter because of billing fraud in the amount of 2.6 million euros at the expense of the city of Frankfurt in the operation of two refugee homes.
In that case, Peter Feldmann is not accused, but he doesn't appear to be completely innocent, at least in the political sense of the word. According to the indictment, he is said to have worked for the AWO in the refugee management department; Ms. Richter also specifically gave the impression that the mayor was backing him.
As the clarification of the alleged billing fraud progresses, Richter's messages to Feldmann took on an increasingly anxious and urgent tone: "Dear Peter, we/I need your help!". Her documents and a "horrible accompanying letter" were sent to the city's audit office; she initially considered filing a lawsuit against the city, but: "No: I will meet my mayor in the Cafe Mozart."
Later it says: “Dear Peter, you could always count on our support and loyalty. That's how we build on you!" In a message that can easily be understood as an allusion to the employment of Feldmann's wife, Richter promises the mayor that she would be happy to "put a stone in the garden" again "professionally or privately" at any time. will throw.
On Tuesday, the first of the six days of the trial, which is currently planned, will end soon after the indictment has been read. In the next appointment, on October 27, Feldmann's lawyers want to present a comprehensive defense.
After the meeting, the Lord Mayor himself only states that he would like a fair and impartial clarification. His lawyer David Hofferbert then tries to sow doubts about this in front of the numerous journalists who turned up: After all, the press officer responsible for the proceedings is also the wife of the presiding judge Werner Gröschel. Since press work that is prejudgmental or otherwise inadmissible can also affect the sentence, there is a risk that Gröschel will have to judge any mistakes his own wife may have made; the decision on an application for bias made on this basis is still pending.
One can also eagerly await the testimony of Hannelore Richter, who, like her husband Jürgen Richter and Zübeyde Feldmann, has been named as a witness. However, she was the only one of the three who did not declare in advance that she would make use of the right to refuse to testify, which she is entitled to as the suspect in the crime complex.
One can therefore speculate that she will cooperate with the public prosecutor's office and incriminate Feldmann, possibly in the hope of a lighter sentence in her own trial. Which would also explain how the investigators got hold of the short messages between her and Feldmann.
Should the fallen AWO boss actually help the prosecution to succeed, the meaning of her short message, originally intended as a call for help, would be reversed to express karmic justice: Whoever benefits from me goes down with me - "quid pro quo".
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