The President and
the Arms Dealer
A story of international arms deals – and expensive gifts in Berlin. A CORRECTIV investigation with public broadcaster ZDF’s Frontal21 and Stern magazine.
24. September 2019
The President and the Arms Dealer
A story of international arms deals – and expensive gifts – in Berlin. A CORRECTIV investigation with public broadcaster ZDF’s Frontal21 and Stern magazine.
24. September 2019
For years, Abu-Dhabi-based Lebanese businessman Ahmad El Husseini acted as the German arms exporters’ facilitator in the Middle East. Then suddenly, he fell from grace, and more than €60 million is subject to disputes.
German industrial giant ThyssenKrupp asked Mr. El Husseini to broker weapons purchases for frigates sold to the Algerian navy. But why did the firm not buy the weapons itself? Was corruption involved in a deal that helped propel Germany to fourth place among international arms exporters?
Mr. El Husseini maintained excellent contacts not only with ruling families and arms buyers in the Middle East – he was also very well-connected in Berlin. Mr. El Husseini sent luxury Christmas hampers packed with vintage wine to several Social Democratic Party (SPD) politicians, including current German president and head of state Frank-Walter Steinmeier. The vintage wines could now spell trouble for the recipients.
Who is Ahmad El Husseini? What was he trying to achieve with his high-end Christmas presents? A search for evidence in Kiel, Abu Dhabi, Singapore – and Berlin.
The Algeria Deal
From Kiel to Düsseldorf and Beyond
Bribery, though illegal, is still widespread in the global arms industry. The presence of a middleman is always a red flag in the eyes of anti-corruption investigators.
Searching for evidence in Berlin
The Social Democrats say they consider wine hampers to be gifts, and not party donations. The German Bundestag, which oversees party financing rules, takes a different view and sees them as donations. The difference is crucial, since according to SPD rules, donations need to be passed on to the party. The SPD says it has not received the hampers and has neither registered any donations from either Mr. El Husseini or his Berlin company.
Mr. El Husseini acted as a middleman for the German defence industry in sales to the Middle East while maintaining excellent contacts with top Social Democrats. The party, battered in recent elections, is currently in the process of electing a new leadership. It now needs to explain its covert ties with the defence industry.
Silence in Berlin
But the gifts served to maintain a network. And they link a shadowy figure from the world of international arms dealing with top German government officials. A connection about which important people in Berlin today prefer to remain silent.
Odd Andersen / AFP, Jean-Paul Barbier / AFP, Mike Benna-Lobe / unsplash.com , Lars Berg / imago images, Rodger Bosch / AFP, Carlo Bressan / AFP, Daniel Brosch / unsplash.com, Gerhard Cerles / AFP , Johannes Eisele / AFP, Eventpress Mueller-Stauffenberg / dpa , Gregor Fischer / dpa , Hüdaverdi Güngör Correctiv, Ryad Kramdi / AFP, Yannic Kress / unsplash.com, John MacDougall / AFP, Ludovic Marin / AFP, Ivo Mayr / Correctiv, Marijan Murat / picture alliance, Fayez Nureldine / AFP, Roslan Rahman / AFP , Frederik Richter / Correctiv, Stefan Sauer / dpa , Tobias Schwarz / AFP, Christof Stache / AFP, Patrik Stollarz / AFP, Julian Stratenschulte / dpa, Anja Trappe, Brandy Turner / unsplash.com, Scott Warman / unsplash.com , Jörg Waterstraat / picture alliance / SULUPRESS.DE, Craig Whitehead / unsplash.com, Valentin Zick / CORRECTIV, Hüdaverdi Güngör / CORRECTIV, Pressedienst Botschaft Angola