2023 Author: Eric Donovan | [email protected]. Last modified: 2023-05-21 15:44
In the affair with the car manufacturer VW, ex-works council boss Klaus Volkert has to answer in court. He admitted errors at the start of the process.
The two defendants do not look at each other. The time of wild parties is long gone - the former VW works council boss Klaus Volkert and ex-HR manager Klaus-Joachim Gebauer have been in the dock in the Braunschweig regional court since Thursday. Incitement to unfaithfulness and jointly committed infidelity are the charges in the third trial of the VW scandal involving bribes and pleasure trips at company costs. After the court had replaced a lay judge employed by VW at the request of the defense attorney and Chief Public Prosecutor Ralf Tacke read out the indictment for almost two hours, both defendants described their point of view.
Have not lost humor
Between photographers and cameramen, the two defendants make their way to the Braunschweig regional court in the morning. In view of the flashing lightning storm, the 64-year-old Volkert joked: "I'm fine." He has not lost his sense of humor yet. "I hope it stays that way," he says and disappears into the courtroom. Gebauer is completely different - the 63-year-old first gives several interviews. "I used to be accused of lying," he says. But now it turned out that he was telling the truth. Gebauer had the task of organizing pleasure trips and other amusements at company costs and paying the works council's bills - there was no control.
At no point did he believe he was doing anything wrong, Gebauer protests in court and describes the system again. After that, he first paid all costs via private accounts and then got the money back with replacement receipts. There were no complaints for more than a decade. Offended, he adds: "It is bitter to be chased from the farm like a mangy dog after more than thirty years."
400,000 euros for a dummy contract
The then Brazilian lover Volkert alone received 400,000 euros for a sham contract. According to the indictment, another 300,000 euros were incurred for travel, hotels, jewelry and purchases. Volkert received almost two million euros in special payments. It was determined by the court in January in the first trial of the VW affair against the former VW labor director Peter Hartz. Hartz had confessed that he had "bought" the influential Volkert.
Gebauer and Volkert used to be close companions - today they have nothing to say to each other. "At the moment you can't speak of a relationship," says Gebauer. «C'est la vie» (That's life). When the VW scandal was exposed two and a half years ago, Gebauer had seriously accused several of his former colleagues at the public prosecutor's office after his dismissal without notice.
Volkert no longer attaches importance to a closer encounter with Gebauer: "The last time I greeted him, it wasn't good for me," he says. After meeting Gebauer, Volkert had to be in custody for a few weeks last year because of the risk of blackout.
"I made big mistakes, which I regret," Volkert began his statement. But not all charges are justified in his opinion. "We brought in our experience in all areas that were important for VW's future," he says. This included the product range or location decisions, as well as political issues such as the end-of-life vehicle regulation. “This extra work was not adequately rewarded,” says Volkert. He addressed the then CEO Ferdinand Piëch, who assured him that he should be treated like a brand director and that personnel director Peter Hartz would take care of it. At first he was not at all enthusiastic about the idea of the special bonus payments because it did not affect his pension. «I gave Dr. Hartz was not encouraged to pay me special bonuses »,said Volkert.
The viewers of the trial have their own opinions. "I want to see whether it's fairer here than in the Hartz trial," says Peter Fischer, who worked for VW for 32 years. “Gebauer is a poor devil,” he says, the ex-HR manager only did what he was told. Fischer hopes that Volkert will be punished more severely than Gebauer. "One hand washed the other," says viewer Helmut Maslo (73), who worked for VW for 34 years. "But I don't think Volkert will get off as cheaply as Hartz." Volkert had "hung out with those up there". Hartz was sentenced to a suspended sentence and a fine of almost 600,000 euros in January for breach of trust and unlawful favoring of works councils.
Another viewer, also an ex-VW employee, says: "Volkert is actually good-natured and harmless." But the board had said to Volkert for years that "he was the king". Volkert then stepped into this "illusion". And Gebauer, he was known in the company as the “works council spittoon carrier”. In any case, things used to be different in the works council, said Klaus-Peter Mander. The 64-year-old was deputy general works council chairman until 1991 and, according to his own statements, was “not a friend of Volkert”. 75-year-old Walter Kargelmann was also a former member of the Volkswagen works council. "We also had trips, but they weren't pleasure trips," he recalls. (dpa)