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Where the tax goes

Taxpayers’ Alliance issues annual Black Book on local government spending

Pulheim: This viewing platform was designed to help people appreciate the view in the town of Pulheim, near Köln, located in one of Germany’s most spectacularly flat landscapes – the cost: €8,500 This year the Taxpayers’ Alliance (BdS) has focused on unprofitable businesses run by local governments in its annual Black Book of government waste – and found space to name and shame some of the biggest money sinkholes in Germany.

“Despite new tax income records, all levels of government complain about funding shortages,” Reiner Holznagel, president of the BdS wrote in the introduction to the book. “But the topic of waste plays no role at all. 

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Germany News in Brief - October 16, 2014

330kg of heroin found in pickles

ESSEN. Police in North Rhine-Westphalia seized a truck containing 330kg of heroin being smuggled in with a 23-tonne shipment of pickled garlic and cucumbers, officials in Essen announced last Thursday.

Divided into 1.3 million doses, the heroin is estimated to have a street value of €50 million and is the biggest single haul of heroin in Germany to date.

The shipment was discovered on September 22 in a truck that had travelled to Germany from Iran.

Two Syrian brothers, aged 30 and 35, suspected of owning businesses that were fronts for the import of heroin into Germany, were arrested last month. Their information led to the arrest of a Dutch man in Belgium and the eventual seizure of the truck.

The Criminal Investigation Division (BKA) believe that a Syrian-Iraqi drug ring has been smuggling large volumes of heroin into Western Europe, hidden in vegetable shipments, for years.

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215 countries, 26 years, 1 engine

Gunther Holtorf returns home following an epic 900,000 km journey around the globe

Back on German soil in Berlin: 76-year-old Gunther Holtorf decided to leave everything behind 26 years ago. He quit his job at Lufthansa and hit the road on a journey that took him around the world Gunther Holtorf left Bavaria in 1989 in his blue four-by-four Mercedes called Otto on an 18-month tour of Africa. Now, 26 years later, he has returned home after travelling 900,000 kilometres and visiting 215 countries.

Together with his fourth wife Christine whom Gunther met in 1989, the couple travelled  for 22 years, often accompanied by Christine’s son Martin. 

In 2010 shortly before Christine died of cancer she made Holtorf promise her that he would complete the world tour in her memory.

Holtorf can’t remember when the idea of travelling the world came to them, but they knew that they wanted to make it into the Guinness Book of Records.

Gunther Holtorf and his wife Christine travelled the worldHoltorf and Christine spent five years criss-crossing Africa, before deciding to make the trip to South America, which he knew well from a stay there earlier in his career.

They continued on through North America, Asia, Australia and all the countries of Europe. But places closer to home weren’t the main goal, Holtorf told Stern.

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