It is a horror story, no matter where you are from.
Gustl Mollath, now 56, was locked up in a high-security psychiatric hospital nearly seven years ago after being accused of making up a story about money laundering activities at a major German bank.
It turns out he may have been telling the truth after all.
Mollath is about to have his case reviewed after evidence has turned up that could exonerate him and validate claims he has made all along.
Here’s how it all started, according to Britain’s Guardian newspaper:
In a plot worthy of a crime blockbuster [Mollath] was submitted to the secure unit of a psychiatric hospital seven years ago after court experts diagnosed him with paranoid personality disorder following his claims that staff at the Hypo Vereinsbank (HVB) – including his wife, then an assets consultant at HVB – had been illegally smuggling large sums of money into Switzerland.
The ‘Mollath affair’
Mollath was tried in 2006 after his now ex-wife accused him of harming her physically. He denied those charges and said she was attempting to destroy his reputation in light of evidence he said he had against her. In the wake of the trial, he was committed to the psych clinic, where he’s been held, against his will, ever since.
But new evidence that has been recently brought to the attention of state prosecutors shows that indeed, money laundering activities had been taking place over several years by members of staff at the Munich-based bank, which is the sixth-largest private institution in Germany, according to details of an internal audit report conducted by the bank in 2003.
The report, since posted online, “detailed illegal activities including money laundering and aiding tax evasion,” the paper said. Several employees, including Mollath’s wife, were fired as a result of the bank’s investigation.
Dubbed the “Mollath affair” by German media, it has taken on such dramatic political dimensions that it seems capable of toppling the government of Bavaria. Under tremendous political and public pressure, Horst Seehofer, prime minister of the wealthy southern German state and a member of the Christian Social Union – the sister party to Prime Minister Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats – has since called for the case to be reopened amid calls that Mollath was the victim of a mighty injustice.
“The judiciary would be well-advised to reassess the case,” Seehofer said recently. “I want them to concentrate on the question of whether everything has been done correctly.”
Beate Merk, his Justice Minister, who has rebuffed repeated calls for him to step down, is defending the results of the case, saying she believes it was carried out “by the book and quite correctly.”
Much of the public; however, has sided with Mollath. He has received thousands of letters of support and scores of Internet posts, with many comparing his fight to that of the Biblical David versus Goliath. He has said he’s glad that now, finally, a decade after he made his first claims, that the “murky business of the bank” is being made public.
“This is precisely what I wanted to achieve all along,” he told the German paper, Suddeutsche Zeitung, which publicized the audit report in November.
Bank, of course, feels no responsibility
In an interview with the paper in his Spartan room at Bayreuth’s hospital for psychiatry, he noted the irony that he was the one suffering the fate he repeatedly warned his wife that she would face. He said he remembered telling her, “Please be careful. One day you will end up in handcuffs and then you’ll be banged up for a few years.”
In a rather amazing yet cold display of callousness, a spokeswoman for the bank felt no remorse for Mollath, telling the Guardian, “We don’t recognize any connection between the results of our audit report and either the criminal trial or the commitment of Mr. Mollath.”
See? Arrogance and the inability to accept responsibility for ruining someone’s life is not the exclusive purview of American politicians and corporate executives.