Berlin Brandenburg Airport: Germany's largest corruption building

Berlin Brandenburg Airport: Germany's largest corruption building

When one of my friends recently asked me about the reason for the many-year delay in the opening of the new Berlin airport, the short answer of the author of these lines was "eaten" - which caused only incredulous smiles. "Have the Germans themselves eaten it? Maybe the contractors were one of us?" the friend joked. In fact, the event that has occurred at one of the largest infrastructure projects in Germany and the whole of Western Europe can be compared with post-Soviet realities with typical "kickbacks", corruption schemes and floating plant handover for commissioning. The history of the Flughafen Berlin Brandenburg Willy Brandt's name is a long and inglorious Berlin saga that began back in 1994 when the decision about its construction was made, and it is still ongoing.

The initial cost of building the airport BER, which is to serve up to 27 million passengers annually, was established at the level of 1 billion euros, it was planned to start its work in 2007. Today, 8 years later, the airport will be commissioned no earlier than the second half of 2017 or the beginning of 2018. The cost of the project during this period has increased to 6 billion euros. Everyone in Europe makes fun of the unlucky Berlin builders. The British newspaper the Telegraph wrote in 2013 about the next, fourth postponement of the opening of the airport, that "the project has turned into an embarrassment for a country that prides itself on efficiency and punctuality". Since then, the opening date has been postponed several times. The Mayor of Berlin at the time, Klaus Wowereit, resigned, and the failure to complete the project on time was one of the reasons.

The turning point was probably in 2012, when it became clear what blunders had been made in the system of fire safety of the airport. Wowereit said in 2012: "The most venerable tech companies, inspectors and planners were working on this project. All these wonderful companies must feel some responsibility to finally be able to establish a system to remove smoke". Further checks revealed an even more depressing picture: the emergency power supply system didn't work; 1036 trees at the airport had been planted in the wrong place, so 600 of them had to be dug up and replanted again; the server cooling system worked so inefficiently that overheating and shutting down of servers were guaranteed; the building designers had completely forgotten about the cable shafts during the construction of a parking; the data link from the airport to the fire department was missing. Also, it turned out later that the cables for transmitting information data have been laid along a high-voltage electric cable that could lead to interference in the work. As a result, they had to dig 35 kilometers of cables by June 2015. The listed things are only a small part of a series of large and small miscalculations of planners and builders. How did it happen that such companies with worldwide reputations as Siemens, Bosch, Telekom and Imtech had stopped a major public infrastructure project?

As it turned out, businessmen have simply "milked" Berlin Airport for years. Thus, the Dutch construction group Imtech was trying to profit from the project, as leading German newspapers trumpeted, including Der Spiegel and Handelsblatt. The head of the German Office for the Dutch group admitted that in December 2012 he held a corrupt deal with one of the managers of the Berlin airport, handing him 150 thousand euros at one of the exits of the A24 motorway. In exchange for a cash remuneration an airport employee organized the smooth payment of Imtech bills amounting to 25 million euros without checking the amount of performed work. The investigation was started only when it became clear that Imtech had wasted all the money, but things were still out there. Meanwhile, an airport manager said at the trial that he couldn't huddle the payment of $25 million through alone. He single-handedly couldn't organize it. Meanwhile, Imtech, which has 150 years of history, has declared itself bankrupt (in addition to the failure in Berlin the group have accumulated other problems – as it turned out, it was robbed by its own managers).

Not only the Dutch but also the Germans treated themselves during the project. In August 2015, the Bild am Sonntag newspaper published a sensational article, which asserted that the managers of the ill-fated airport were massively overbuilding by Siemens, Bosch and T-Systems (a subsidiary of Telekom). Until the next transfer of the opening date of the airport in mid-2012, the administration of the airport was paying almost any requirements of these companies with no verification, Bild reported with reference to the closed documents. Thus, Siemens, which required 22.9 million euros for additional services, received 22 million euros of additional payments. In the case of T-Systems, 99% of the additional payment requirements were fulfilled. According to the lawyers, such high surcharges are unique and suspicious. In connection with the publication the airport management announced the beginning of the next general financial audit.

The companies, which laid sewage pipes and channels for supplying drinking water, also profited from the Berlin airport. The former chairman of the MAWV water association, Wolf-Peter Albrecht, the former director of the engineering company RAKW, Wilfried Gromotka, and construction entrepreneur Frank K. appeared before the District Court of Cottbus in connection with corrupt machinations during the implementation of contract works at the airport. According to the investigation, Albrecht arranged million-euro orders for sanitation of water and sewage systems at the airport to Gromotka. Gromotka, in his turn, "thanked" Albrecht with cash, and construction entrepreneur Frank K. built a house for him for free. All the defendants were found guilty and sentenced to various terms of imprisonment.

When will the ill-fated airport in Berlin be opened? Apparently, its management also doesn't know. Anyway, no one else dares to name specific dates, preferring to specify an indefinite period.

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