According to international research, more than 500 current or former honorary consuls were or are involved in criminal cases, scandals or official investigations. Since 2020, the federal government has sent five so-called verbal notes to inform other countries about criminal investigations against their honorary consuls, the “Spiegel” reported on Monday in its online edition. At least 30 men and women have been sanctioned by the US, the EU and other countries in recent years.

Around 350 honorary consuls are currently working for Germany. These do not have to be German citizens. Honorary consuls “are active in many places in addition to diplomatic and consular representations,” according to the website of the Federal Foreign Office. They exercise their function on an honorary basis and have no diplomatic immunity.

Germany’s political system – basic knowledge (display)

However, the “system, which is hardly subject to any controls worth mentioning”, is associated with “considerable privileges”, as the “Spiegel” writes. These privileges have been “abused on a large scale for years”.

The magazine cites examples of honorary consuls who have been involved in shady arms deals, involved in drug deals, or attempted to smuggle valuable artifacts.

Almost 60 media from 46 countries took part in the global research on the “shadow diplomats” initiated by the International Network of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and the US research platform Propublica. In Germany, in addition to the “Spiegel”, it was also NDR, WDR and the “Süddeutsche Zeitung”. The results are based on a “systematic analysis of court documents, government reports and newspaper archives on six continents”.

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