Probe opens into German flying carpet

Probe opens into German flying carpet

BERLIN - Reuters
Probe opens into German flying carpet

Niebel faces resignation calls for failing to declare to customs a rug he bought. AFP Photo

German prosecutors are looking into whether Chancellor Angela Merkel’s international development minister broke the law by failing to declare to customs a rug he bought in Afghanistan which he later got the country’s top spy to bring back for him.

Dirk Niebel, a member of the Free Democrats (FDP) who share power in Merkel’s center-right coalition, has become the subject of jokes and criticism over the “flying carpet” scandal. A spokesman for Berlin prosecutors confirmed media reports on June 10 that the office was looking into “initial suspicions of possible punishable behavior.”

Niebel has said he bought the thick red carpet in Kabul for his dining room but that it was too heavy to fly back so he asked the embassy to arrange for it to be sent on the next government plane.

‘Meant to help Afghan economy’

The head of Germany’s intelligence agency (BND) ended up carrying the 30 kilograms rug on a plane back to Berlin and an estimated bill of about $250 in import duties was not paid. Niebel has apologized for the lapse and is now sorting out payment. “With the request for late payment, the matter is over,” he told Bild am Sonntag.

The minister said he had meant to help the Afghanistan economy with the purchase. Niebel bought it from a carpet seller summoned to the embassy. “I don’t know anything about carpets but I liked it.

So I bought it for $1,400 ... I am sorry I got the BND president into such a situation. It was stupid of me,” Niebel said.