Status: 27/09/2023, 16:13 p.m.
The former Elsfleth shipyard on the Hunte. © Sina Schuldt/dpa
The Elsfleth shipyard was to repair several ships and boats for the German Navy, including the "Gorch Fock". Not everything is said to have been done right. Now new allegations are directed against an employee of a Hamburg subcontractor.
Brake - He is said to have been involved in the scandals surrounding the restructuring of the "Gorch Fock", so he has been on trial since Wednesday: A 51-year-old is said to have made excessive offers to the Elsfleth shipyard as project manager of a Hamburg subcontractor, including for the renovation of the "Gorch Fock". Subsequently, he is said to have granted the shipyard credits of more than 1.2 million euros. The public prosecutor's office accuses the man of bribery in business transactions - but at the beginning of the trial before the district court of Brake/Unterweser, the defendant did not comment on his business dealings with the Elsfleth shipyard.
The shipyard was to repair several ships and boats for the German Navy. The shipyard was also the main contractor for the refurbishment of the "Gorch Fock" and worked with numerous subcontractors.
The cost of repairing the Bundeswehr training ship exploded from a planned 10 million euros to 135 million euros. The discussion also focused on the shipyard's business practices. In February 2019, it filed for bankruptcy. The Bremen Lürssen shipyard took over the completion of the sailing ship and returned it to the Navy in autumn 2021.
From 2015 to 2018, the defendant is said to have made excessive offers to the Elsfleth shipyard for 21 projects. According to the public prosecutor's office, one project concerned the renovation of the "Gorch Fock". In the settlement, he is said to have granted credits - usually 15 percent, in the case of the "Gorch Fock" 17 percent. In this way, the project manager wanted to ensure that his company would be given "unfair preference" for next orders.
The defendant had only "fulfilled his duties as an employee and no more," said his defense lawyer at the beginning of the trial. As project manager, his client did not benefit in any way from the credits - but only the Elsfleth shipyard.
In court, the defendant remained silent, to the police he is said to have previously admitted the credits. The 51-year-old had taken over the system from his predecessor without questioning and found it to be common, an investigator reported from the interrogation at the time. However, he did not want to write a "fake invoice" like his predecessor, who has since died. Instead, he had already taken the credit into account in the offer and sent an "invoice correction" to the shipyard at the end.
In fact, such credits were common practice at the Elsfleth shipyard, the head of the special commission described in court. Many subcontractors felt compelled to do so in order to keep up with the competition. During searches on the premises of the Elsfleth shipyard, entire lists with the credits granted by the individual companies had appeared. Services provided by subcontractors such as the Hamburg-based company had been "systematically" incorrectly billed to the naval arsenal in Wilhelmshaven - namely without specifying the credits.
Since December 2018, investigators have been investigating the network of relationships between the shipyard, subcontractors in the region and the navy. According to the head of the special commission, 26 proceedings have been initiated against those responsible for the Elsfleth shipyard, involving up to 18 million euros in damage. A further 60 proceedings were aimed at subcontractors with damages amounting to 6.9 million euros.
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The Oldenburg Regional Court has yet to decide on the opening of two proceedings for embezzlement and fraud against two ex-board members of the Elsfleth shipyard - they are said to be the last major charges from the "Gorch Fock" investigation complex. The proceedings before the court of lay judges of the district court of Brake are to be continued on 11 October. Dpa