Interview with Werner Mauss
“I did not make any mistakes”
District. Germany’s most spectacular jewellery robbery, the raid on the premises of exclusive Hanover jeweller René Düe in October 1981, is back in the news. From the time the stolen jewellery turned up in the former home of René Düe’s father there have been very few people prepared to believe the ex-jeweller’s protestations of innocence.
Herr Mauss, you had a major role in the case at the time. However, accusations of your unfair investigative methods in the case have simply refused to go away. Does the finding of most of the stolen goods in the former home of Düe’s father represent a late triumph for you?
In all my thirty-plus years of work as an undercover investigator I have never felt any sense of triumph. That is still how I feel today. But it is true that the original suspicions on the part of the public prosecutor’s office, the police and the state department of criminal investigation (LKA) were vindicated by the fact of the jewellery being found where it was. Düe arranged the robbery himself: he is guilty.
But the Düe case has been over for you since 1989, at the latest since Düe’s acquittal. Why does the case still mean so much to you today?
A number of journalists used the Düe case over several years to criminalise me. It must now be clear to everyone that the conclusions reached by our investigations have been confirmed. Of course I have a strong interest in making sure that the public is made aware that the investigations that were carried out by the police and myself at that time were both legitimate and in compliance with the law. Public prosecutor, Hans-Jurgen Grasemann was successful in gaining – wrongly, as we now know for sure – an acquittal for Düe at the Brunswick trial, something which led to the police later being accused of persecuting the supposedly innocent Düe. Both the police officers involved and myself have suffered a great deal because of this.
You were a key player in this case; it was largely your work that brought Düe’s conviction in Hanover, although he was later acquitted in Brunswick. According to those involved in Brunswick, even today, the Hanover trial was characterised by “manipulation” – What mistakes did you make at that time?
As undercover investigator I used my experience and knowledge of psychology to crack the case. The investigation was led by the state criminal investigation office. My job was to follow just one of many leads in the case. I only worked on establishing direct contact with Düe, and everything I did was agreed upon with the police and public prosecutor’s office and approved by them in advance. I am of the opinion therefore that I did not make any mistakes.
Are you still convinced that the methods used by yourself and the police were in accordance with the rule of law?
My methods were proper and correct. If you are hinting at the bugging operation used against Düe in France, I can tell you that Yes, it did happen, but it was done abroad and by the police, not by me. As far as I know, this took place on the basis of letters rogatory to France and with the collaboration of a French investigating magistrate. I was not aware that such measures were contestable at that time in Germany. The current legal situation would allow such measures in Germany also.
After his acquittal, Düe was paid a very considerable sum in compensation by the state of Lower Saxony for his two years in prison. What do you think about that now?
At his original trial in 1983, René Düe was given a seven-year sentence. In 1992, a few years after his 1989 acquittal, the Hanover district court dismissed Düe’s damages suit against the Mannheimer Insurance Company on grounds of his “wilful deceit”. The verdict was upheld by the German Supreme Court. The judges saw Düe as guilty because of the fact that he had given some jewellery to me in 1982 that he had previously reported as stolen. This judgement meant that all damage claims were forfeit. What I find inexplicable is, that despite this, the state of Lower Saxony went on to pay out the sum of 2.5 million Marks to Düe.
What do you think the Hanover public prosecutor’s office should now do to clear up the Düe case once and for all?
I believe that the police and public prosecutor’s office have taken steps in the right direction; steps that will confirm that the results of investigations submitted by their colleagues at that time were correct. What, in my view, now needs followed up on, are the leads from the alleged contract murder in Turkey.
Does your bringing up of the Istanbul murder trial mean that you believe that René Düe was involved in murder as well as insurance fraud?
My experience of Düe was that he was a clever swindler. In 1982, he cold-bloodedly attempted to deflect suspicion away from himself and onto his main supplier in New York. Whether or not he is the type of person to arrange a murder; I don’t know.
Do you think it likely that you will be called up again as a witness by the Hanover public prosecutor’s office in the near future?
I cannot say. I see no problem in putting my knowledge of the case at the disposal of the courts at any time.
What are you doing nowadays? What are you involved in now that the undercover operations of the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s are over?
My wife and I are assisting the Colombian peace process, and I have a mandate from the parties in the conflict. We want to try to take the violence out of the conflict. We want to see an end to the kidnapping, the massacres and the torture. That is our primary objective and one that we are working on intensively.
Why in Colombia of all places?
Until 1998 we were working on behalf of the Chancellor’s Office, later it was the conflicting parties who were desperate for us to carry on. We couldn’t ignore this request. The confidence that has been built up is something that was not and is not transferable to anyone else.
By courtesy of the publisher www.wochenspiegellive.de