German 'James Bond' Werner Mauss gets two-year suspended sentence for tax evasion

His life story reads like a spy novel, but tax collectors say Werner Mauss has tens of millions of undeclared euros. He has claimed that the overseas bank accounts are funded by friendly spy agencies.

Former German secret agent Werner Mauss was handed a two-year suspended sentence on Thursday in a yearlong tax evasion trial that has gripped German news outlets.

The 77-year-old was once one of Germany's top spies, but he was accused of hiding about €50 million euros from tax authorities from 2002 to 2011.

The former vacuum cleaner salesman turned millionaire claims an impressive list of international interventions, including:

- thwarting an attempted poisoning of Pope Benedict XVI by the Mafia

- freeing hostages held captive by Colombian rebels

- working against the "Islamic State"

- mediating between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, as well as Hamas

- tracking down stolen treasure from Cologne Cathedral

- arresting RAF terrorist Rolf Pohle in Athens

Read more: Germany expels second Vietnamese diplomat for Cold War-style kidnapping


Tom Hanks among spies in Berlin

Many parts of Steven Spielberg's new movie were shot in and around Berlin. It re-enacts the first of a series of spy swaps that took place on Glienicke Bridge, which became known as the "Bridge of Spies," hence the title of the film. Spielberg isn't the first filmmaker to portray secret agents in Germany. Here are more examples.


'5 Fingers'

The film "5 Fingers" (1952), directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz, is about a famous secret agent during World War II who worked for the Nazis - widely known by his code name, Cicero. Although other spy movies were filmed on location, this one was mainly shot in the studio.


'Spy for Germany'

This West German thriller, originally titled "Spion für Deutschland" (1956), also depicts the actions of a German secret agent during World War II. Starring Martin Held and Nadja Tiller, it was filmed both in Berlin and the US.


'The Dirty Game'

Werner Klinger, who directed "Spy for Germany," was also among the four filmmakers who helmed this 1965 anthology spy film. It is made up of stories directed by a German, a French, an Italian, and a British filmmaker. Shot in Berlin, it starred Henry Fonda and Robert Ryan.


'Torn Curtain'

Alfred Hitchcock filmed his spy thriller "Torn Curtain" in the studio in 1966. However, some scenes were shot on location in Berlin. Camera crews filmed in the German capital and sent their footage to Hollywood so Hitchcock could use the material in his movie. The cast included German actors Wolfgang Kieling and Hansjörg Felmy, along with US stars Julie Andrews and Paul Newman.


James Bond in Berlin: 'Octopussy'

A large part of the 13th movie of the most popular secret agent in film history, James Bond, was shot in Berlin in 1983. Agent 007, depicted by Roger Moore, is seen at Checkpoint Charlie, in front of the Berlin Wall, and does a chase scene on the AVUS highway. Bond's love scenes were filmed in the studio, though.


'The Innocent'

In 1993, John Schlesinger filmed on location in Berlin. "The Innocent" is based on the Cold War "Operation Gold," where CIA and MI6 agents built a tunnel under the Russian sector of Berlin. Anthony Hopkins, Isabella Rossellini and Campbell Scott star in the film.


'Mission: Impossible III'

For the third film in the "Mission: Impossible" series, director J.J Abrams and star Tom Cruise initially planned to film in the German Reichstag. But the German government didn't allow them to shoot in the building - a council decided it should not be used in commercial films. The crew had to build sets in Babelsberg Studio, just outside Berlin.


'The Good German'

"The Good German" (2006) by Steven Soderbergh also demonstrates how studio sets can replace actual locations. The story is set in post-war Berlin, but was filmed in Los Angeles. However, Soderbergh built in archive material of the actual war-torn city in his gloomy film shot in black-and-white.


'Spy Game'

This 2001 spy thriller starring Robert Redford and Brad Pitt is set in Berlin, but it wasn't shot in Germany either. Locations in Budapest were used to reproduce the German capital. This can actually be noticed in some scenes: Some elements in the background do not exist in Berlin.


'The Man from U.N.C.L.E.'

Currently in theaters, the secret agent comedy "The Man from U.N.C.L.E." contains many scenes set in Berlin in the 1960s. Henry Cavill depicts an American secret agent competing with a Russian spy. The film beautifully recreates the atmosphere of divided Berlin - yet everything was done by computer.



The fifth season of the popular TV series "Homeland" was shot in Berlin, too. Agent Carrie Mathison is no longer working for the CIA and is hired by a German private security firm. Filming was also done in Babelsberg Studios and in Brandenburg.


On location: Glienicke Bridge

Steven Spielberg filmed his spy movie on location in Berlin. After all, the legendary and mysterious Glienicke Bridge also inspired the title of his film, "Bridge of Spies." Sometimes the actual location simply beats all studio sets and digital reproductions.

Accounts belong to intelligence agencies Mauss claimed

His claims of an illustrious career have painted an image of a James Bond type character who went deep undercover to investigate criminal agencies around the world.

At the heart of the tax case was a series of overseas bank accounts which Mauss had access to and earned undeclared interest on. Mauss claimed that the accounts in Luxembourg, Liechtenstein and the Bahamas were set up by Western and Israeli intelligence officials in the mid-1980s to fund covert security operations around the world.

But prosecutors said they did not believe that story and that his story was filled with gaps.

He was found guilty on 10 charges of tax evasion and handed a suspended sentece. He was also asked to donate €200,000 to charity. Prosecutors were requesting six years and three months' imprisonment. 

Werner Mauss

Werner Mauss operated as a secret agent for decades

Judge Markus van den Hövel said his "impressive life's work" had been taken into account in the judgement. 

Mauss' lawyers said he would appeal the verdict, saying the judges were unable to access exonerating evidence. One of Mauss' key witnesses, an unnamed Israeli spy, was reportedly thwarted in his attempts to attend the trial.

Mauss told national daily "Die Welt" in 2000 that he had seen the James Bond movies, but was unimpressed.

"I never used violence in my work, and never used a gun, nor fists; I preferred to use my head," he was quoted as saying. He told the outlet he would adopt false identities to infiltrate various groups at the behest of private enterprises and governments.

Mauss' offshore network of finances was revealed by respected German daily "Süddeutsche Zeitung" as part of its Panama Papers release.  

aw/rt (dpa, AFP)