It was one of the biggest white-collar scams in German history. In the 1990s, Manfred Schmider and his company FlowTex took investors for more than two billion euros. Today, the conman himself can’t believe how easy it was to get away with a major fraud.
For years, banks and leasing companies paid entrepreneur Manfred Schmider money for machines that didn’t even exist. The more than 3,000 tunnel-drilling machines that were allegedly in use on construction sites around the world existed for the most part only on paper. There were no limits to the imagination of Schmider's criminal mind. And everyone was blinded. Dubbed the "Sheik of Karlsruhe," Schmider lived in the lap of luxury, showering his wife with 50-carat diamonds, collecting holiday villas and flying the ten kilometers to his workplace by helicopter. Could authorities have stopped his scheme earlier if they’d investigated accounts of his fraudulent practices when they were first reported? Manfred Schmider was convicted in 2000 and spent years behind bars. Today he lives on Mallorca.