German leader jailed in Saudi deal

Former German junior defence minister Ludwig-Holger Pfahls has been jailed for two years and three months on bribery and tax evasion charges stemming from an arms deal with Saudi Arabia.

    Pfahls (R) was sentenced to two years and three months

    The Friday judgment was in line with an agreement between the prosecution, the defence and the court ahead of the trial that limited his total jail time to two years and three months if nothing during the trial contradicted his confession.

    Defence lawyer Volker Hoffmann, who had requested a slightly more lenient sentence, nevertheless called for Pfahls' immediate release on health grounds and said he was considering an appeal of the verdict to increase the likelihood he is placed earlier on probation.

    Pfahls, 62, who served as state secretary for defence from 1987 to 1992 under then chancellor Helmut Kohl, admitted during his trial to receiving about $2.5 million in bribes from Canadian-German dealer Karlheinz Schreiber for arms sales and failing to declare the income. 

    Kohl testimony
    In testimony before the court in this southern German city, Kohl helped clear Pfahls on a separate corruption charge by saying Pfahls had had no influence over the controversial deal to export 36 armoured vehicles to Saudi Arabia during the 1991 Gulf war. 

    Kohl helped clear Pfahls on a
    separate corruption charge

    The former German leader said he had given the go-ahead for the sale alone, after making a secret personal pledge in late 1990 to then US secretary of state James Baker, who had asked Germany to help the Saudis. 

    Because Kohl confirmed that the defendant had had no political influence over the armoured vehicles deal, the prosecution dropped the more serious corruption charge the day of the former chancellor's testimony. 

    Presiding judge Maximilian Hofmeister said that while Pfahls may have greased the wheels for the deal, he had not directly violated the duties of his office.
    "You accepted money without being corrupt," Hofmeister told the defendant while reading the verdict. "You were working on commission."
    After five years on the run, Pfahls was arrested in Paris by French and German police in July last year.

    He was extradited to Germany in January.
    Pfahls could be released as early as September because his time in French and German custody will be counted against the sentence.

    When half the sentence has been served, the judges may convert the rest to a suspended sentence. 



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