Berlin Airport

Management Oversight Questioned in Bribery Probe

Mehdorn Hartmut on Dec 12, 2014. Source AP Wolfgang Kumm
The CEO of Berlin's troubled new airport, Hartmut Mehdorn, once had praise for an employee now suspected of corruption.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    Documents obtained by Handelsblatt suggest that the chief executive of Berlin’s new international airport, Hartmut Mehdorn, may have underestimated the gravity of a corruption allegation at the building project.

  • Facts

    Facts

    • The documents suggest managers of Berlin’s airport did not respond adequately to a whistleblower letter alleging corruption.
    • In a recommendation letter, airport CEO Hartmut Mehdorn lauded a departing executive now being investigated for taking bribes from a contractor.
    • Mr. Mehdorn announced his intention to step down as CEO three days after prosecutors opened an investigation into the alleged bribery case.
  • Audio

    Audio

  • Pdf

Hartmut Mehdorn had five minutes.

It was the afternoon of Thursday, February 26. The head of the company that is managing construction of Berlin’s scandal-plagued new airport was a guest on the local nightly television news show, “Abendschau.” Only a few hours had passed since the latest piece of bad news had surfaced about the airport, which was already three years overdue and more than four times over budget.

A manager at Germany’s largest building site had reportedly accepted bribes from a construction company doing work on the massive, unfinished project located on Berlin’s southeastern edge.

The public prosecutor’s office found €300,000 ($332,000) in cash in the manager’s apartment.

Mr. Mehdorn, the former chief executive of the German railroad, Deutsche Bahn, looked glum as he walked into the TV studio, wearing a black suit and striped tie. A gruff, squat manager known in Germany for his ability to get things done, Mr. Mehdorn faced the music.

“The man was brought in before I arrived,” Mr. Mehdorn told the television interviewer. “And I removed this man from the construction site relatively soon after I took the position, because a number of things hadn’t been done correctly.”

“Hasn’t this completely spoiled your departure?” the interviewer asked Mr. Mehdorn, who had announced his plans to leave the project two months earlier. “The public is increasingly under the impression that the airport is nothing but a money-destroying machine.”

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