Friday, February 09, 2007

Lawyer: Suspects in Restaurant Murder Deny Involvement

Police have arrested two suspects in the Sittensen Chinese restaurant killings, but the investigation is far from over, with three of the victims still to be identified.

The two Vietnamese men arrested in connection with the killings of seven people in a Chinese restaurant in Germany deny playing any role in the shootings, one of the men's lawyer said Thursday.

The pair, aged 29 and 31, whose full identities have not been made public, were arrested on Monday, 12 hours after the shootings. The murders took place in the early hours of Monday in the Lin Yue restaurant in the small town of Sittensen, situated between Bremen and Hamburg.

The bodies of three men and three women were found in the restaurant in the early hours of Monday. Another man found at the scene died of serious gunshot wounds on Tuesday.

The two suspects were apprehended when the hire car they were driving was stopped for a "routine check" near the northern city of Bremen.

Bail application

"My client has told me that he has nothing to do with this thing and neither has his friend," said Wilfried Behrendt, the lawyer representing the 31-year-old man.

Police refused to comment on press reports that the 31-year-old was known to police and had previously been investigated for criminal assault and blackmail.

Behrendt acknowledged that he had represented his client for several years, but gave no further details. The lawyer has applied for his client's release and believed a colleague representing the other man would do the some. Both suspects have been remanded in custody by a magistrate in the town of Wildeshausen.

The older suspect has lived for several years in a new apartment block surrounded by gardens at Osterholz on the outskirts of the city of Bremen, according to neighbors. They said the young suspect had recently moved into the block after living in the nearby town of Ahlhorn. Police have searched all the premises and said they had seized documents, but have released no other details.

Many unanswered questions

The process of identifying the bodies was completed on Thursday, with the identity of the three remaining victims established.

The killings have shocked the small community, and challenged local police. They have said all lines of investigation remained open, adding that there is no history of Chinese mafia activity in the region.

DW staff with wire reports (emw)

Deutsche Welle 02/2007

Intelligence Official: Chinese Snoop on German Companies

Germany's domestic intelligence service has warned the country's companies that China is increasingly using electronic espionage to get trade secrets.

"We have noticed increased activities by Chinese hackers of late," Elmar Remberg, the vice president of Germany's Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution told the Financial Times Deutschland newspaper.

Other Western states have also reported an increase in industrial espionage by China, he added.

Experts say industrial espionage costs German companies billions of euros each year. Russia and China -- two of Germany's most important trading partners -- are the worst offenders, according to Remberg.

"Whereas the Russian services operate primarily in the classic form, with agents, the Chinese are mainly active in the electronic sector," he said.

Weak spots

One problem is the increasing use of Internet telephony by companies, Remberg said.

"This is where two dangers are coming together: communication per se and the Internet," Remberg said, adding that interns might also pose a problem.

Companies that develop or distribute high technology are especially prone to being spied on, according to the Consortium for Industry Safety (ASW). Smaller and medium-sized firms that develop highly specialized products are also targets, according to ASW's executive director, Berthold Stoppelkamp.

He said that smaller companies were also more vulnerable to spy attacks as the larger ones had already established security departments for the most part.

"Security is not only about having a guard at the door," Stoppelkamp said, adding that IT systems had to be protected and employees needed to receive training in how to behave when suspicious things happened.

Chinese groups not welcome?

Espionage and counterfeiting contribute to China's huge export success, according to the German Office for Foreign Trade (bfai), a government agency.

"An increasing number of German companies no longer want to host Chinese delegations, because the danger of lifting trade secrets is too high," said the bfai's China expert, Corinne Abele.

She added that no numbers on product piracy are available. While Chinese customs officials are meant to stop counterfeited products from leaving the country, they appear to only do random checks.

"We'll certainly have to deal with the problem for another couple of years," Abele said.

China to surpass Germany

China is expected to surpass Germany as the world's leading exporter next year. German officials announced Thursday that the country was the world's biggest exporter in 2006, with a record foreign trade surplus of 162 billion euros ($209 billion).

Exports climbed 13.7 percent from a year ago to 893.6 billion euros while imports rose 16.5 percent to 731.7 billion euros, officials for the federal statistics office said.

The 162-billion-euro surplus was around 2.5 percent more than the 2005 surplus of 158.2 billion euros.

Exports remained a driving force in the German economy, which grew at a faster than expected 2.5 percent in 2006 -- the best performance in six years.

DW staff (win)

Deutsche Welle 02/2007

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Study: Crime Down, But Europeans Still Feel Threatened

European citizens feel the crime rate has dropped in the last decade but about one person in three is still concerned about personal safety in the streets, according to a survey released Monday.

Fifteen percent of Europeans questioned said they had been the victim of a common crime -- including 10 categories of crime ranging from bicycle theft to burglary -- in 2004, compared to 19 percent in 2000 and 21 percent in 1995.

But the crime, safety and security survey, which studied people's perceptions about crime, found that about 30 percent of citizens in 18 EU countries were afraid of burglary and do not feel safe on the streets.

The poll, coordinated by Gallup Europe, showed that Britons considered they lived in a "high crime country," second only to Ireland, while Germany suffered more sex crimes.

According to the results, provided during an interview by 2,000 people in each country, Britain has the highest level of assaults and burglaries -- 5 percent and 3 percent of all crimes

respectively -- in the EU countries.

Sex crimes in Germany above EU average

Sexual crimes in Germany were 60 percent above the EU average, according to the poll, which the authors said had no correlation to crime statistics compiled by police in the countries concerned.

France had the highest number of "hate crimes" in the EU -- 5 percent compared to an 18-country average of 3 percent -- respondents there said.

The study revealed cultural differences about what crime means. People in Scandinavian countries, for example, have a wider definition of what constitutes a sexual crime and are more likely to go to the police than citizens in Mediterranean rim countries, it found.

Six dead in bloodbath in Germany

Meanwhile, six people were found shot dead in a Chinese restaurant in northern Germany in the early hours of Monday, but a two-year-old girl survived, police said. The victims were three men and three women, all believed to be of Asian origin.

They had been tied up and their bodies were found in different rooms of the Lin Yue restaurant in Sittensen, a town of 10,000 inhabitants near the northern port of Hamburg. The owners of the restaurant and staff members were among the dead.

Police spokesman Thomas Teuber said another member of the restaurant staff suffered serious gunshot wounds and was being treated in hospital. The bodies were found by a 47-year-old man who came to fetch his wife from the restaurant shortly after midnight. She was among the dead.

The motive for the killings was unclear, police said. There was no evidence that the restaurant had been the target of blackmail and there was no history of Chinese mafia activity in Lower Saxony, the state where it is situated. Organized crime linked to Chinese groups "has never been an issue in Lower Saxony", said a spokesman for the regional police. The state has asked federal investigators to work on the case.

DW staff / AFP (win)

Deutsche Welle 02/2007

Monday, February 05, 2007

German Supreme Court Deems Police Hacking Illegal

Germany's supreme court determined Monday that police may not secretly hack into suspects' computers. Some are celebrating the decision as a civil rights victory, but the ruling may not be the last word on the matter.

No legal framework for secret police hacking exists at this time, decided Germany's Federal Court of Justice Monday in Karlsruhe, since searching computer and Internet data on a suspect's computer without their knowledge cannot be compared to existing methods of police investigation.

The court ruling stated that home searches differed from computer searches because they were always conducted in the presence of the suspect, or at least a witness. Telephone taps could also not be compared with computer hacking, continued the report, because previously saved data files fundamentally differ from live telecommunication.

New legal framework may be created

The public prosecutor's office welcomed the decision from Karlsruhe as it "established clarity on the scope of the existing investigation process concerning Online evidence, which is so important to the investigation," according to a statement cited by German news agency dpa.

Germany's Interior Minister Wolfgang Schäuble had been supportive of allowing police to conduct secret searches of computer hard drives and Internet records.

According to reports, it is likely that Schäuble will now press for changes to the legal framework of the criminal investigation procedure that would allow for police hacking, which advocates see as particularly helpful in locating and prosecuting terrorists.

Support from the left

Jan Korte from the Left Party immediately praised the court decision as a "godsend for civil rights." He also criticized Schäuble, saying the interior minister should not "keep thinking up new methods of spying and then figure out the legal situation after the fact."

Police hacking has been practiced in the past at the state level, often to scan the Emails of individual suspects and criminal groups. A court order was required in these cases and the computers could only be searched while they were running.

A supreme court judge affirmed the legality of secret police hacking in February 2006. When this judgment was overturned in November, Attorney General Monika Harms appealed. Monday's decision rejected Harms' appeal and upheld the November decision.

DW staff (kjb)

Deutsche Welle 02/2007