BOCHUM, Germany (Reuters) - A 77-year-old spy, known as Germany’s James Bond for his secret missions during and after the Cold War, was convicted of tax evasion on Thursday and handed a suspended two-year sentence.
Werner Mauss, whose career spanned 40 years, says on his website that he was involved in smashing more than 100 criminal gangs and in the arrests of around 2,000 individuals.
In a trial that has been going on for about a year, Mauss - who wore a hooded jacket in court - was accused of concealing millions of euros from German tax authorities in offshore accounts between 2002 and 2011.
“Ultimately, the extent of the damage is only one aspect to consider (in determining the sentence),” said Volker Talarowski, spokesman of the court in Bochum.
“All aspects have to be considered, among them the age of the defendant. The defendant is 77 years old and he has never been sentenced, and he has achieved a special life’s work.”
German authorities say nothing about Mauss.
But media credit him with being one of Germany’s most distinguished undercover agents. The Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper said he had had 100 different identities and a line to the chancellor’s office.
The charges were raised after the Sueddeutsche Zeitung named him as being involved with shell companies exposed by the “Panama Papers”, documents leaked by law firm Mossack Fonseca.
“He is one of the most mysterious figures in post-war German history. He was used by countries, companies and individuals as a private agent,” the newspaper said at the time. “He worked for the German foreign and domestic intelligence agencies and the police. They named him ‘the Institution M.”
Mauss argued the offshore accounts were set up by third parties to pay for undercover missions, such as the freeing of hostages.
He says he was involved in finding treasure from Cologne Cathedral hidden near Belgrade in the 1970s and catching the robbers.
He also says he helped in the arrest of Red Army Faction militant Rolf Pohle in Athens, as well as being involved in hostage releases in Lebanon and Colombia.
Reporting by Reuters Television; Writing by Madeline Chambers