BERLIN, Feb. 7 (Xinhua) -- In one of the biggest cases of fraud in post-war German history, charges were brought against the founder of the container company P&R, the Munich public prosecutor's office 1 announced on Thursday.
The 75-year-old defendant Heinz Roth is formally accused in 414 cases of commercial fraud as well as 12 cases of tax evasion with a total damage of almost 18 million euros (20.4 million U.S. dollars).
"The indictment against the accused, who is in custody, concerns only a fraction of the total investment of around 54,000 investors," according to the public prosecutor's office. P&R had collected a total of 3.5 billion euros.
P&R is accused of having set up a pyramid scheme that promised returns from leasing sold containers to freight companies and offered investors to repurchase the containers after five years. This business worked for years because P&R used the incoming money of new customers to pay the returns of existing investors.
In the process, the container company is believed to have sold over a million non-existent containers to investors. According to investigations, around 1.6 million containers were sold, of which only 617,000 existed.
The fraud case of P&R could surpass the Flowtex scandal during the 1990s when Flowtex managing director Manfred Schmider and his accomplices managed to sell more than 3,000 non-existent special drills for underground construction work. The biggest economic scandal in Germany to date had caused damages of more than 2 billion euros.