Friday, May 12, 2006


Accusation of the Day

They try to make crime fun but are politically motivated. —Bodo Franz, police spokesman

You thought I was going to write about the Republicans, didn't you? But today's accusation is leveled at a gang of superhero-clad thieves operating in Germany. Allan Hall reports from Berlin—

A gang of anarchist Robin Hood-style thieves, who dress as superheroes and steal expensive food from exclusive restaurants and delicatessens to give to the poor, are being hunted by police in the German city of Hamburg.

The gang members seemingly take delight in injecting humour into their raids, which rely on sheer numbers and the confusion caused by their presence. After they plundered Kobe beef fillets, champagne and smoked salmon from a gourmet store on the exclusive Elbastrasse, they presented the cashier with a bouquet of flowers before making their getaway.

The latest robbery is part of a pattern over the past several months, suggesting that the thieves deliberately set out to highlight what they perceive as the inequality inherent in German society.

Carsten Sievers, the manager of a luxury supermarket in the wealthy Blankenese area of Hamburg, recently watched the robbers run off with trolleys full of expensive foodstuffs, including Kobe beef which, at more than £100 [$190] a pound, is always on their illicit shopping list.

In another recent swoop, the gang emptied a groaning buffet table in a top restaurant into sacks, while one of their number held up a sign saying. "The fat years are over" - the title of a hit film currently doing the rounds in Germany.

In internet statements, the gang have made a point of saying their booty is distributed to Hartz IV recipients1 - the poorest of Germany's long-term unemployed. The benefit is named after the disgraced Volkswagen personnel director Peter Hartz who, before he lost his job with the car-maker in a prostitutes-and-bribes scandal, devised the new means-testing....2

When the gang robbed the gourmet store in April - triggering a massive police investigation that cost £20,000 in taxpayers' money without an arrest being made - they left a note behind saying: "Without the abilities of the superheroes to help them, it would be impossible for ordinary people to survive in the city of the millionaires."

The police are rounding up the usual suspects: anarchists and malcontents—

Police say they are concentrating their investigation on a loose collective of anarchists and malcontents called "Hamburg in Vain", to which they believe the superheroes belong. But they admit there is a certain panache and skill about their robberies.

The gang are also behind black market cinema tickets which they distribute free to the poor, and they have printed leaflets telling passengers how to dodge ticket inspectors on the city's underground and buses.

Stealing and giving to the poor? No, they're definitely not Republicans.


1According to Mathieu Denis of the Canadian Universities Centre, Berlin,

Hartz IV – the fourth set of laws inspired by the conclusions of the commission chaired by Volkswagen human resources manager Peter Hartz -, this reform was implemented by January 2005. It brought about a drastic drop in the unemployed persons' rights and standard of living in Germany

Denis gives a detailed summary of the rules. [back]

2In July of 2005 Mark in Mexico had this to say, and since he's a right-winger himself, I see no reason to doubt it—

VW is up to its neck in crime and corruption again. This time, VW's head of personnel, board member Dr. Peter Hartz, has resigned in a sex and kickback scandal that has Gerhard Schroeder's government in more trouble than it already was. Hartz is a close advisor to the Schroeder government and was the architect of Schroeder's labor policy. Hartz is accused of authorizing more than $30,000 for prostitutes to entertain various VW executives and union officials.


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