Lately, the German court system has been on the front page of news items. Yesterday....one of the biggest cases of the last year came to an odd end.
Christian Wulff....was a prominent CDU political figure from Saxony. He'd made up to the big-time in 2010.....being appointed as the CDU choice as Germany's next "President". It's more of a ceremonial post than anything else. Generally, it means you aren't that big a political figure within the party.....and your demeanor is quiet enough to satisfy most of the opposition folks.
In the summer of 2010...there was a fair amount of political jockeying going on....with the SPD and Greens supporting Joachim Glauck....a former East German who had run up a political rights agenda for twenty-odd years. Wulff won over Glauck.
In some ways....it was a bit of a internal fight, and some folks sensed that the fight didn't really end when Wulff won the Presidency.
Roughly eighteen months later....there's this scandal to erupt over Wulff. The key scandal that got to become a court episode....involves this episode that occurred in 2011....when Wulff gets invited to some festive dinner episode, and he travels there with his wife and kid. Somewhere in this festive occasion.....is a sort of payback for help he provided in getting some production movie deal done.
So the producer seemingly falls into this creation. The hotel (a big-name spot), the dinner, and the child-care provided.....would appear to be covered by the producer....not Wulff.
The news media by the end of 2011....have decided that this is terrible. A seven-hundred Euro bill.....paid by a producer. Undue influence, etc etc, etc.
So an state investigation occurs. Wulff officially leaves office. Naturally, the former loser....Joachim Glauck....becomes the next President, thus making the SPD and Greens happy.
The German justice system went through two years of an investigation and a court episode. Yes, over 700 Euro, which might or might not have been paid for by the producer, for Wulff. Yeah, it's pretty silly.
At some point, the prosecution wants to just move this along....so he offers a 20,000 Euro fine, with no court episode, and just admit guilt. Thus.....no jail time.
Well....Wulff said no.
I think the German media was shocked. Their general impression was that the prosecutor had evidence...so this was a simple case to prove....why bother running it through the whole court episode?
The court came in yesterday and rendered the verdict. Not guilty. It was a shocker, and was the number one news of the entire day. The news media? They just couldn't believe it.
Wulff? I suspect he's fairly angry about the whole thing. He lost his reputation. His second wife at some point said "enough" and separated from him. He's out of politics now. The state prosecution team? Because of German law.....they have to cover the cost of the loss....meaning they pay for his legal fees.
How much was spent on the prosecution case? For a seven-hundred Euro question of fault? Well....the Economist sat down and did the math. It's an interesting episode. This prosecutor and his boss (Clemens Eimterbaumer and Frank Luttig)....put around four million Euro into the case (roughly $5 million). Yeah.....four million to win a case of 700-Euro in questions.
What is generally said....the prosecution team kept looking and fishing for more evidence. On and on. Witnesses came and went. There's a suggestion of 30,000 pages of documentation that got into the case. German federal officials served papers on at least forty different bank accounts....circling several individuals. What the Economist says....at least eight businesses or houses....had search warrants served.
The court kept examining material, and tossing out charges. So what Eimterbaumer and Luttig were stuck with....was one sum of roughly seven hundred Euro....for a hotel episode around Octoberfest of 2008.
I kinda suspect that the German court system....watching Eimterbaumer and Luttig at work....got to a point of frustration. Fishing for evidence....makes you look foolish. Either something stands out or it doesn't. So I kinda suspect that the court finally said....Ok, proceed with what you have left....which is one single episode....whose value is seven-hundred Euro ($900 roughly). The court knew beforehand what they'd render, but figured this would be more of a judgement against the prosecution team than anything else.
So you can imagine this scene yesterday. Innocent verdict. End of the story. Wulff totally off the hook. The prosecution guys? Well....they stumbled through tens of thousands of man-hours and at least four million-Euro of efforts.....with nothing to show for it.
Will the news media go back this weekend and start to look over the prosecution efforts? I don't know. Payback somewhere down the road? I'm guessing the prosecution guys will be told to go and retire. Wasting that much time and effort.....over what ended up as a seven-hundred-Euro case......is kind of comical.
Once in a while.....you find this odd story about German culture....which really says volumes about society in this modern era. This is one of them. There's a big loser in this case.....two figures actually.....and their entire life's work will be judged by four million wasted on this episode.