German ex-minister found guilty of corruption

A German former junior defence minister was found guilty of corruption on Friday after admitting receiving millions of euros from an arms dealer who supplied armored vehicles to Saudi Arabia.

The court in Augsburg sentenced Ludwig-Holger Pfahls, 62, to two years and three months in prison for tax evasion and taking personal advantage of his government post.

Pfahls’ lawyer, Volker Hoffmann, said he would appeal against the ruling. But he will withdraw the application if the court on August 29 agrees, as expected, to free Pfahls early after taking into account the 13 months he has already spent in custody.

German media said Pfahls, a minister in former Chancellor Helmut Kohl’s government, could be released next month.

Pfahls had admitted receiving the equivalent of about 2 million euros (1.37 million pounds) for deals involving arms dealer Karlheinz Schreiber, who is in Canada fighting extradition to Germany. Pfahls was on the run for five years before being arrested in France in July 2004, reports Reuters.

According to Forbes, Kohl said he had given the go-ahead for the sale alone, after making a secret personal pledge in the autumn of 1990 to then US Secretary of State James Baker, who had asked Germany to help the Saudis.

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 2004. He was extradited to Germany in January.

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