What started as luxurious “pleasure trips” in Prague has mutated into corruption and embezzlement charges for Helmut Schuster, a former head of personnel in Czech carmaker Skoda which constitutes a part of Germany’s Volkswagen (VW) consortium.
Today, at Wolfsburg’s court, Schuster’s lawyers gave their testimonies on a corruption case that, according to the prosecution, took place in Volkswagen in 2005, and among others involved Schuster.
After that judges decided that Schuster is guilty of corruption and embezzlement. He was sentenced to ten months probation and fined EUR 15 thousand.
Prague’s night life
The trial was the latest chapter in a much wider corruption scandal that involves VW’s top management and includes some embarrassing allegations, such as so-called “pleasure rides” of VW’s managers – visits to nightclubs and brothels in Prague paid by VW.
Volkswagen’s former head of personnel Klaus-Joachim Gebauer spent EUR 55 thousand for escort services for him, Schuster and other VW’s managers. Most of this sum, more than EUR 43 thousand, was spent in Prague’s K5 Relax club. Schuster visited this club for at least 25 times, and according to German press he also invited VW’s union leaders.
In addition, German prosecution argued that Schuster also provided Gebauer’s girlfriend a job in Skoda’s branch in Germany – even though she did not do any actual work there.
VW’s manager buys a Lamborgini
Schuster was also facing a charge that he illegally accepted EUR 100 thousand when choosing a location of a new Volkswagen facility in India. Allegedly, he used the sum to buy a Lamborghini.
In February, Schuster was sentenced to a one-year probation and fined EUR 10 thousand. However, Schuster’s lawyers appealed against the sentence.
Other VW’s managers who have already faced charges are former head of personnel Petr Hartz and former union boss Klaus Volkert. Both were fined and given one and two years of probation in 2007 and 2008.
Three years ago, Hartz defended former director general of Volkswagen Ferdinand Piëch and took the blame on himself. Both Hartz and Volkert appealed against the rulings, but the Federal Court of Justice in Leipzig rejected their appeals as groundless. This means that the rulings are final and Schuster was the last protagonist of the scandal who was waiting for the final decision.