A much praised NGO boss who earned a fortune from managing many of Germany’s refugee aid services has been arrested for stealing 2.6 million GBP from the money that was supposed to help the new arrivals get established in the country.
Mohamed Abou-Taam, director of the German NGO Arbeiter-Samariter-Bundes (ASB), otherwise known as the ‘Workers’ Samaritan Federation’ in English, was arrested on suspicion of defrauding three million EUR (2.6 million GBP) from the group.
According to reports, the cops raided the ASB’s offices in the northern German city of Hanover, which was run by 46-year-old Abou-Taam.
Chief prosecutor Thomas Klinge said: “We are investigating the allegation of embezzlement in this particularly serious case. There were several searches in the Hanover area. The officers seized a huge amount of data and documents.”
Klinge said that the ASB director has so far denied all the allegations.
The large humanitarian organisation, which has 1.1 million members across Germany, helps refugees find accommodation among other services such as rescue operations, disaster control and civil protection.
During the migrant crisis in the autumn of 2015, the ASB received political recognition for their aid work.
According to local media, the money which was allegedly embezzled by Abou-Taam comes from a government-allocated fund which is meant to help settle refugees in Germany.
It was reportedly Abou-Taam’s job to help set up refugee accommodation across the northern state of Lower Saxony.
An anonymous source with reported knowledge of the NGO’s dealings said at the time of the migrant crisis: “The ASB has made a lot of money by aiding refugees”.
According to current investigations, Abou-Taam allegedly collaborated with a man identified as Brian S. to embezzle the money.
Brian S. was the head of a security firm in the town of Nienburg who reportedly issued fake invoices to the ASB for security services at refugee shelters between January 2016 and March 2017, which Abou-Taam subsequently paid.
According to investigators, a total of five men are involved in the alleged fraud including Sven R., Abou-Taam’s deputy, and Thomas F., an assistant .The name of the fifth person has not been reported.
The investigation was launched after a bank alerted the police about the suspects’ shady account activities.
According to local media, Abou-Taam used bank accounts in Spain, Italy and Malta to hide the money’s origins.
Abou-Taam is currently in investigative custody. It was not reported whether the other four suspects are currently locked up as well or released on bail.
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Story By: Koen Berghuis, Sub-Editor: Joseph Golder, Agency: Central European News