Thailand’s former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra has been at a lot of places. Be it in Cambodia (twice), Uganda, Montenegro, Dubai, Nicaragua, Papua New Guinea and many more – the man has allocated a lot of mileage. And for good reason.
Since he was toppled in a military coup in 2006, he made a brief return to Thailand in 2008 before he and his (now-divorced) wife Pojaman jumped bail (they did not come back after they attended the Olympic opening ceremony in Beijing. Who let them leave the country in the first place?) after a court sentenced them to three years in prison because Thaksin abused his power to help his then-wife to buy public land. They returned to London, where the Shinawatras have already fled to after the 2006 coup, but soon after the British authorities have revoked his UK visa. What then followed was the involuntarily world tour for a new asylum to the aforementioned places (and many more), somewhat reminiscent of a former children television game show.
One of the places he went to was Germany in late 2008. Half a year later the Munich-based daily newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung reported how and why Thaksin was able to fly into Germany and even got a residence permit. Since the original article is in German, I translated and emphasized the key parts.
(…) The probably most known and presumably richest fugitive refugee in Asia, who has more than half a dozen of criminal cases against him, was on that December 29 in Oxfordstrasse No. 19 in Bonn – in the municipal alien department. He applied for a residence permit for the duration of one year.
Previously he was at the [resident‘s] registration office and has enrolled an address in Bad Godesberg as his residence. Billionaire Thaksin was able to account for his own livelihood, not a welfare case then, and also had insurance. The person in charge also took a look in the central register for foreigners but found nothing [suspicious].
All foreigners in Germany have to report to the local authorities. This is handled by municipal authorities unlike other countries. Also, Bad Godesberg is the location of the former private residence of the Royal Thai Embassy when Bonn was capital of West Germany.
The approval procedure was eased because of the company of the former head of the criminal investigation department [Kriminalpolizei (Kripo) an agency within state police authorities] Gerd Steffen as well as a distinguished lawyer. In addition was a mysterious man, who introduced himself by the name Richard Nelson. The person in charge understood that he [Nelson] was working for the Federal Intelligence Service [Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), the foreign intelligence agency], but he must have misheard. The agent would never said that, who is in fact named Werner Mauss and once a universal weapon of the German [intelligence] agencies. In the end, Thaksin was granted a permit.
The curios encounter in office [Amt] 33-6 has caused a stir behind the [political] scenes in Berlin, Düsseldorf [state capital of Nord Rhine-Westphalia] and Bangkok. The Federal Foreign Office [Auswärtiges Amt], which learned late of the procedure, was furious and saw the relationships with Thailand in danger; the Chancellor‘s Office [Bundeskanzleramt] and the Nord Rhine-Westphalia State Ministry of the Interior were informed.
The Federal Foreign Office thought for the time being, the BND has acted on their own and protested heavily. Didn‘t the BND used to ‘pretty up’ Thaksin‘s role in confidential reports for the federal government? However, the top heads of the BND assume that an agent from a foreign agency has ‘sailed in under a different flag’, as insiders say. But then the officers heard the name [Richard] Nelson and knew right away what happen: [Richard] Nelson is one of many aliases the now 69-year-old private investigator Mauss used in his past assignments for authorities and agencies. In his life, he was on many assignments, of which the backgrounds remain mysterious.
(…) [Werner] Mauss, formerly known as „man without face“, has received decades ago visitors incognito at the local police headquarters in presence of the head of the criminal investigation department. (…)
According to his Wikipedia page (only in German), Werner Mauss started as a private investigator but also worked as an agent for German companies and as a contact person for German intelligence services, through which he maintained contacts to high-ranking personnel inside the Chancellor’s Office. He was involved with the arrest on a left-wing terrorist Rolf Pohle in the 1970s, negotiated the release of German hostage from the Hezbollah and was also connected to the both infamous and mysterious death of German politician Uwe Barschel.
An old acquaintance of him [Nelson/Mauss] was involved in this act: the former State Secretary and former MP Rudolf Kraus of the CSU party [Christlich Soziale Union, the Bavarian Christian-conservative sister-party to the nationwide CDU]. In a letter to the municipal alien department in Bonn he notified, MPs of the CDU/CSU party absolutely want to meet Thaksin this summer 2009 in Germany and thus he [Thaksin] needed a residence permit. (…) „Thaksin is a highly interesting personality“, he continued. Did Mauss [alias Nelson] pressured him [Kraus] to write the letter? „Let‘s drop it“, said Kraus [upon further questions]. (…)
This is the most puzzling part for me. Why were these German MPs so eager to meet Thaksin? Who were these MPs? And what would have the topic of the meeting been?
On pressure by Berlin and Düsseldorf the residence permit for Thaksin has been revoked on May 28.
Let’s recap here: Thaksin was able to enter Germany and had zero problems obtaining a residence permit thanks to some shadowy friends, who shielded him away from the federal government and also the Thai Embassy in Berlin (which learned from his stay through said newspaper article, but mistakenly assumed Thaksin would be still in Germany by that time as a contact has told me.)! Not only does this sound like it could have been torn from a crime novel, but also the time it took until the public would know about it is astonishing. That said, some might have noticed his stay in Germany already earlier than June 2009, because in April 2009 Thaksin himself said in an interview with the French daily Le Figaro that:
[Thaksin passed his time away from Thailand] with business in Dubai, Hong Kong, Africa and Germany – a country which has given him a residency card, he said.
The mystery of his whereabouts held on for a few more months since then, even with the Thai authorities claiming to know his silly incognito name. Sometimes Thaksin and the hunt for him really appears like that former children television game show.