For up to 14 hours a day he styled customers’ hair in a barber shop in Leverkusen. Six days a week, monitored by video cameras, only a 15-minute break a day, for just under three euros an hour. And when he dropped out completely due to corona disease, his employers, members of a notorious extended family, stopped paying him anything. At some point the hairdresser had enough and resigned. But that’s when the nightmare really started.
That’s what the 127-page indictment reads, excerpts of which the public prosecutor read out on Wednesday in room E 116 of the Düsseldorf district court. The hairdresser is just one of many cases from a long catalog of allegations. Seven members of a clan are sitting in the dock, which was not noticed for the first time when the police stormed the alleged boss’s villa in Leverkusen with an armored vehicle in June 2021 and confiscated live firearms and 360,000 euros in cash. Around 600 officers were involved in the major raid in 15 North Rhine-Westphalian cities.
At the start of the trial in Düsseldorf, the public prosecutor’s office accuses the four men and three women aged 22 to 47 of taking hostages and forced labour, gang fraud and money laundering. While those present were sitting down in Room E 116, one of the accused shouted a few loud, unintelligible words, a woman in the audience was crying, and then it was quiet. The four men and three women sit motionless between their lawyers and listen impassively as the public prosecutor lists the prosecution’s allegations for an hour and a half.
Otherwise they would spread a video showing him having sex
Accordingly, threatened Badia El-Z. and his three sons to the barber: he could only go if he paid the 26,000 euros that his extended family had invested in the barber shop. Otherwise they would drag him into a basement – and what would happen to him there, they presented in a mobile phone video: on it a man who is apparently being tortured by clan members. Or they would spread a video in which he could be seen having sex. The hairdresser panicked and fled to Munich. There, too, the clan members are said to have threatened him on the phone: They are well known to the Hells Angels and do not even have to “fear from the authorities”.
Other victims who appear in the indictment had also experienced what can happen if you defy the clan. Members of the extended family had kidnapped a man into a soundproof recording studio in the basement of a shisha bar in Düsseldorf because he allegedly had a relationship with a woman who is said to have been married to a man close to the clan. Garden tools lined up in the music studio were intended to demonstrate to the frightened victim that he would first be tortured and then buried in the woods. Only because one of the clan members feared that the man might die off did they stop beating with the stick and the victim managed to escape.
Bodies run over by tanks, legs chopped off
With such stories, some of the other allegations, which are also described on the 127 pages, become a side note. For example, that the accused are said to have extorted 15,000 euros from the owner of a pizzeria for protection money, and the restaurateur still found himself in his demolished restaurant in the end. Or that they sent violent videos of the so-called Islamic State to minors via Whatsapp, in which bodies were run over by tanks, legs chopped off and heads severed with machetes, as the prosecutor lists.
Or that one of the clan’s sons, who previously lived on welfare, apparently bought a villa in August 2018 and rented it out to supposedly destitute family members. He is said to have wrongly collected 460,000 euros. Among other things, a loan taken out for the purchase of the villa and a building loan agreement are said to have been serviced. Thomas Jungbluth, then chief criminal director and responsible for organized crime at the State Criminal Police Office in Düsseldorf, spoke of “money laundering in its purest form” after the raid in June 2021.
The defendant is still the owner of the villa
Only a few days later, family members had returned to the property. When asked by the media, NRW Minister of Justice Peter Biesenbach was unable to say whether social assistance would continue to be received. Only this much is known so far: the 21-year-old son of the main suspect Badia El-Z at the time of the crime. now sits next to his father in the dock. He still owns the villa, which is estimated to be worth a million euros. Only when the court found money laundering in connection with the villa and this judgment became final could the state access the property, according to the spokesman for the public prosecutor’s office.
The Düsseldorf regional court has a lot of work ahead of it, and the chamber has set 30 days of hearing until November for the complex taking of evidence. The accused do not want to get involved with the allegations for the time being. They face prison sentences of up to 15 years.
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