Rip-off in the east
Fortune hunters from the West, veteran bearers of the dying DDR state or dubious investors from abroad: reunification is an Eldorado for scammers of all kinds. The damage to the state coffers runs into billions. A lack of coordination, wrangling over competencies, trench warfare and a lack of transparency make clarification difficult and at the same time open the door to further fraudsters. They cleverly use the opportunity to make a lot of money quickly. Among them was the Dutch company Jan Zwagerman International. In July 1991, it bought the “BBB”: the “dredging and salvage shipping company” based in Rostock. It is Europe’s largest specialist shipping company and, with 2,500 jobs, a job guarantor for the region. The Dutch buyers negotiate the purchase price down from three to 1.5 million D-Mark. Instead of investing, they consistently cannibalized the BBB. More than 40 million in subsidy money flowed into their own pockets instead of into the company. The result: foreclosure and a spectacular arrest of the masterminds on the highway. “ZDF-History” tells how white-collar criminals used the turmoil of the fall of communism to enrich themselves with generous subsidies or former DDR state property. These include Michael Rottmann, the buyer of the DDR company Wärmeanlagenbau (WBB), building contractor Jürgen Schneider and Rudolfine Steindling, the mastermind behind one of the biggest economic thrillers involving the multi-million-euro legacy of the former state party SED, known as the “red Fini”.