A German intelligence agent known as “the German James Bond” has been hailed a hero despite being handed a two-year suspended jail sentence after being convicted of tax evasion.
In a case that has been rumbling on for more than a year, Werner Mauss, who is known as “Institution M” and “007” in Germany, was fund guilty of tax evasion, but instead of being sent to jail for six years as prosecutors had hoped for, he was released with the judge lauding his work as a ‘great achievement’.
Mauss who is know for his work negotiating the release of hostages in the Middle East and Colombia, was also ordered to donate €200,000 (£178,000) to charity, according to various reports.
Prosecutors had called for a custodial sentence of more than six years, but German Judge Markus van den Hövel said he had taken the 77-year-old Mauss’ record of public service into account in handing him a suspended sentence.
The trail which has captured the attention of the German public and the world, lasted more than a year and featured claims by Mauss that he was working for unnamed Western intelligence agencies against Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (Isil), according to reports in the Telegraph.
Mauss also told the court he had personally prevented a mafia plot to assassinate Pope Benedict XVI.
In sentencing Mauss, Judge Markus van den Hövel said: “His is a great achievement, for which the court has the highest respect”, despite the fact that Mauss was accused of evading €13.2m (£11.8m) in taxes on profits from offshore investments over a period of ten years.
Western intelligence offshore fund claims
Mauss claimed the offshore funds never belonged to him, but were in a trust fund set up by unnamed Western intelligence agencies to finance his work, according to the Telegraph report.
A list of expenses he submitted to the court included bizarre claims of spending hundreds of thousands recreating a tropical beach scene, in a conference room at a Frankfurt hotel, to allegedly stage a truce between the Thai government and rebels.
Prosecutors alleged Mauss had instead spent the money on a lavish lifestyle of high performance cars and race horses.
In what could be seen as a highly unsual ruling, the German judge said the court neither accepted nor rejected Mauss’ claim intelligence agencies had set up the trust fund for him.
But the judge ruled that at some point the money had passed into Mr Mauss’ possession, and that he should have declared it in his tax return.
However, the court accepted Mauss’ expenses claims and ruled that he had evaded only a maximum of €2.3m (£2m).
Mauss is seen as a legend in Germany for personally capturing a member of the far-Left Baader-Meinhof terror group and negotiating the release of hostages held by the Lebanese Hizbollah.
Mauss is a freelance agent rather than an intelligence officer, is believed to have worked extensively undercover for Germany’s BND intelligence service.
To some a master-spy and to others a self-publicist. Now today Mauss is free as a result of the judge’s ruling.