Cashing in on Crime | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 18.03.2005
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Cashing in on Crime

Armin Meiwes, the German who killed and ate another man, has sold the rights to his story. Victims' rights activists worry financial rewards for crimes might provoke copy cats, but government officials disagree.


Meiwes is only talking to his exclusive media partner

Günter Stampf's past client include celebrities such as former Soviet leader Michail Gorbatchev and German starlet Verona Feldbusch. He recently secured another high-profile client for his media production company.

After months of negotiations, Stampf received exclusive rights for a television documentary about Meiwes, who is serving a sentence of eight years and six months in prison for killing and eating another man. A book is to follow and Meiwes has declined requests to be interviewed as a result.

"The documentary, in which Mr. Meiwes will talk for the first time, will be supported by a number of well known scientists and experts," an announcement on Stampf's Web site reads. "The serious and journalistic documentary will try to explain what lead to this murder."

Kaufhauserpresser Dagobert zur Buchmesse, Kalenderblatt

Arno Funke, also known as "Dagobert," became famous for blackmailing a German department store chain. He said book sales didn't even cover trial costs

Sensationalist coverage of Meiwes' cannibalism, however, isn't the only reason victims' rights advocates in Germany have called for legislation to prevent other criminals, such as German blackmailer "Dagobert" (photo), from cashing in on their story. They also argue that rewarding convicts for their actions might entice others to follow suit.

Celebrity criminals?

"There's a danger that someone only commits a crime to become famous in order to make money," said Veit Schiemann, a spokesman for White Ring, a German victims' rights group. "People might rob a bank in the most gruesome way in order to be able to sell the story afterwards."

Last June, Germany's state justice ministers unanimously asked the federal government to introduce legislation that would ban criminals from selling their stories. But neither the state ministers, who are in the midst of discussing a complete overhaul of Germany's justice system, nor the federal ministry saw a need to act swiftly on the matter.

Henning Plöger, a spokesman for the German justice ministry, said no legislation was planned, adding that a 1998 law already gave crime victims the right to lay claim to any money criminals make from selling their story. "Sometimes it's desirable that a criminal finds a way to make money lawfully in order to be able to compensate victims," Plöger said.

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