Former German spy Werner Mauss was given a two-year suspended sentence for tax evasion earlier this month, after a mysterious Mossad agent he claimed could provide him with an alibi failed to appear for his testimony, which the court refused to take from afar.
Mauss, 77, also known as the "German James Bond," worked as a rogue operative for at least three decades, and is attributed with, among other things, the capture of a German terrorist from the Red Army Faction in Athens, the rescue of Pope Benedict XVI from the Sicilian mafia, being involved in hostage releases in Lebanon and Colombia and even working against ISIS.
He says on his website that he was involved in smashing more than 100 criminal gangs and in the arrests of around 2,000 individuals.
In a trial that has been going on for about a year, Mauss was accused of concealing millions of euros from German tax authorities in offshore accounts between 2002 and 2011.
Mauss argued the offshore accounts were set up by third parties—including by the Mossad—to pay for undercover missions, such as the freeing of hostages.
It was the secrecy surrounding the missions that forced the founders of the accounts to avoid any documentation of its real goals, and even to dedicate it after his death to the establishment of the Werner Mauss Museum, he claimed.
His lawyers announced that his testimony could be affirmed by a special witness speaking on behalf of the founders of the accounts.
"The interrogation of this witness will close the gaps in the case," they said.
A Mossad agent named 'Adam'
According to the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, a 66-year-old Israeli Mossad operative known as "Adam" agreed to testify in court in the German city of Bochum on the condition that his interrogation be held behind closed doors or at least behind a screen.
Adam, according to the newspaper, has been working for the Mossad since 1981 and was one of Mauss' operators at the end of the 1980s.
Adam then progressed to the position of department head and was responsible for running and budgeting agents.
Mauss' lawyers claimed that their client was not merely "another agent among many" for the Mossad, but that he had connections with the organization that were "among the longest and most successful managed with an agent."
The testimony of Adam was supposed to shed light on the nature of the accounts, since the money accumulated there reportedly also came from the Israeli intelligence agency.
But Adam did not arrive at court to give his testimony, which was scheduled for last July.
According to reports in the German newspaper Die Tageszeitung, Mauss' lawyers claimed that Adam refused to travel to Bochum out of fear of being arrested.
In an email sent to the court from a private email address, the agent claimed that his identity had been compromised by one of the German security authorities.
After the court rejected a proposal to investigate "Adam" from afar or by a judge in Israel, the hope of Mauss' lawyers to prove their client's testimony was lost.
Not his only connection to Israeli authorities
It is not known exactly what services Mauss provided to the Mossad, but whis is not his only connection to Israeli authorities.
Last year, Haaretz journalist Uri Blau revealed that additional material submitted to the court included Hebrew letters from Knesset Member Amir Peretz.
In the letters, Peretz testified that he knew Mauss, mentioned some of the names he used, and claimed that he was responsible "secret and sensitive security operations for the State of Israel and for other entities around the world."
Peretz revealed to Haaretz that he had in the past connected Mauss with Israeli authorities for the purpose of "transferring sensitive information on security matters."
The documents submitted to the court also alleged that Mauss mediated between Israel and Hamas for the return of the bodies of Israeli soldiers from Gaza and also helped in contacts with the Palestinian Authority.
Nevertheless, Mauss was convicted on October 5, given a two-year suspended sentence and ordered to donate €200,000 (£180,000) to charity.
The former agent was unable to mount a "proper defense" because he was still bound by confidentiality agreements linked to his decades of undercover work, his lawyers said.
“Ultimately, the extent of the damage is only one aspect to consider (in determining the sentence),” said Volker Talarowski, a spokesman of the court in Bochum.
“All aspects have to be considered, among them the age of the defendant. The defendant is 77 years old and he has never been sentenced, and he has achieved a special life’s work.”
A veil of secrecy
Though German authorities have said nothing about Mauss, German media credit him with being one of Germany’s most distinguished undercover agents. The Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper said he had had 100 different identities and a line to the chancellor’s office.
The charges were raised after the Sueddeutsche Zeitung named him as being involved with shell companies exposed by the “Panama Papers,” documents leaked by law firm Mossack Fonseca.