‘Post’ story leads to shake-up at German-Iran business group

Head of German-Emirati Joint Council for Industry and Commerce discharges a female employee who posted the minutes of its “Working Group Iran” project on the council’s Web site.

By JERUSALEM POST CORRESPONDENT
March 12, 2010 11:18
2 minute read.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Merkel worried 311. (photo credit: Associated Press)

 
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BERLIN – A Jerusalem Post article in late January covering the German-Emirati Joint Council for Industry and Commerce as a conduit for legal and illegal trade with Iran played a role in an administrative shake-up at the business group, according to a report in the daily Die Welt.

Peter Göpfrich, the head of the council, discharged a low-level female employee who posted the minutes of its “Working Group Iran” project on the council’s Web site.

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Whether she was whistle-blowing or had mistakenly posted the document online was unclear. However, German observers of Göpfrich’s management style see an unsavory decision to divert attention from his promotion of German-Iranian trade at the expense of the security of Israel and the West.

According to the Die Welt article, “Trade via Dubai: Secret German business deals with Iran,” investigative articles in the Post and The Wall Street Journal Europe had prompted Göpfrich to put the “emergency brakes” on the project, which sought to conduct business in Iran through Dubai.

Nasrin Amirsedghi, a German-Iranian publicist who closely monitors German-Iranian trade, told the Post that “despite Göpfrich’s decision to suspend Working Group Iran,” Göpfrich and the business group “continue to cut new business deals with Iran.”

She viewed the dismissal of the employee as a maneuver to whitewash the work of the commerce group. She was skeptical that Göpfrich would have pulled the plug on Working Group Iran if the minutes had not been revealed.

Germany is Iran’s most important European trade partner. Göpfrich termed the revelations about Working Group Iran and its efforts to find gateways to Iran an “embarrassing and annoying occurrence.”

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While overall German export trade has dropped on average 18.4%, trade to Teheran was reduced only marginally, to 5.3%. In 2009, Germany engaged in €3.3 million worth of commerce with Iran.

Chancellor Angela Merkel said that her government had curbed German-Iranian trade but the numbers, according to media reports in the Federal Republic, show the opposite. German industry, critics say, has been bending over backward to supply Iran with technology – including dual-use goods – that can be used for its infrastructure and its nuclear weapons program.

Merkel’s administration and the parliament reject American-style sanctions legislation to restrict the flourishing German-Iranian economic relationship. Israeli diplomats are deeply troubled by Germany’s failure to crack down on its support for the Islamic Republic.

Critics view the opening of the German-Emirati Joint Council in May of last year as a means of circumventing UN and European sanctions. Göpfrich, who sought to depict himself as not being anti-Israel when talking to Die Welt and stressed that he had spent a year there, has remained a controversial figure because of his energetic engagement of pro-Iranian trade.

According to the council, there are 800 German firms present in Dubai. German exports to Dubai totaled $11 billion in 2008, a 40% increase compared to 2007.

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