Mauss Set Up a Waste Disposal Firm in 1983
Intensity of investigation effort made criminals decide to dump barrels in sea / Mauss foiled plans
District. He was the detective equivalent of the pest controller….
According to his own figures, Werner Mauss, the agent from the Hunsruck has so far helped in the bringing to justice of 1,600 criminals through his collaborative investigations with the police and public prosecutors.
The criminal archives reveal that in his 20 years of operations, more than 30 tons of hashish, heroin, marijuana and LSD were seized with his help, as were over 100 million dollars in counterfeit money, weapons and explosives. The now 58 year-old was also behind spectacular cases such as the arrests of the Red Army Faction terrorist Rolf Pohle and the freeing of the Lebanon hostages Cordes and Schmitt.
But none of the operations of the legendary agent, who worked his way up from humble agronomist to become Germany’s most successful secret agent, made so many international headlines as did the tracking down of the missing Seveso toxic waste barrels in 1983.
The scandal had begun years earlier, in 1976, when a cloud of poisonous dioxin gas produced by an explosion at the Imesa chemical factory in the Italian town of Seveso contaminated the factory site and the surrounding area. Clearing up operations required the removal of 151 tons of highly toxic waste, with 41 barrels being classified as particularly dangerous.
The Mannesmann Italia Company agreed to dispose of the barrels, but then passed the contract on to another firm, which turned out to be a letterbox company operated by racketeers. The barrels were spirited away by the gang. Then, seven years later, in February of 1983, the scandal really erupted. Across Europe, people were horrified and demanded to know what had become of the barrels. For the Mannesmann Company, who should have taken care of the job properly in the first place, and for the German Interior Minister at the time, Zimmermann, the image damage was threatening to become enormous. In the end, Zimmermann felt it was time to use the Federal Criminal Police Office’s secret weapon – Werner Mauss.
The man from the Hunsruck and his wife Ida reported to the Ministry of the Interior on the 30th of April 1983 for a secret meeting. Along with the Chief of Staff from the Ministry of the Interior Hans-Georg Dusch, Mannesmann directors Dr. Overbeck , Dr. Weisweiler and Dr. Munding were present at this meeting.
The managers described the precarious situation of the company to the agent and put certain documents at his disposal. By using a cover story, Mauss succeeded in making contact with the group that had hidden the barrels. In order to do this, “Institution M” as the shrewd agent was known, set up a waste disposal company in Athens. Mauss knew that he did not have much time because the crooks who had taken the barrels to use for bribery, were under enormous pressure from the intensity of the investigation into their disappearance. “In the end the pressure on them was so great that they were planning to simply dump the barrels in the Mediterranean”, Mauss claims.
Mauss, who is now 58, finally made contact with the waste racketeers by giving himself out to be an international expert in the field of waste disposal, based in Greece. Under the pretext that he would be able to “easily dispose” of the barrels he was able to win the trust of the group. He found out that the barrels were hidden in France.
Provided with false documentation by the Lower Saxony State Office for the Protection of the Constitution, Mauss met up with the waste racketeers on the 18th of May at the Ritz Hotel in Paris to officially conclude the contract to take over the barrels. By a few hours later he had discovered that the barrels were hidden away at an old closed down butchery.
The location was Anguilcourt-le-Smart near Saint-Quentin in northern France. Mauss immediately informed the Chief of Staff of the Interior Ministry in Bonn. Interior Minister Zimmermann then informed his colleagues in France personally.
“I felt a sense of relief when I was able to tell the authorities where the barrels were hidden; if we had not found them they would have been dumped in the sea. It would have taken 20 years at the most for the barrels to rust sufficiently to leak their contents, the consequences for the human and the natural environment would have been horrendous”, said Mauss. When the finding of the barrels by the French police on the 19th of May 1983 made the news headlines across Europe, no one in the distant and tranquil Hunsruck region could have imagined that the success of the investigation was down to one of their own – Werner Mauss....
By courtesy of the Wochenspiegel SW publishers