An evening in a group of business journalists – that is pure stress for a CEO because some questions are relentless and silence is rarely possible. Aurubis boss Roland Harings therefore had every reason to be nervous when he dedicated his Tuesday evening to the Hamburg business journalists’ club – because his company has had one drama after another in the last few months. First there was a cyber attack, then an industrial accident in which three employees lost their lives. And then it became clear that the largest European copper smelter had been systematically excluded by criminals for years: precious metals worth 185 million euros were missing from its inventory.
Who is responsible for all these things? “The board is responsible,” says Roland Harings on this club evening. And in order not to give any room to the thought of resigning, he looks forward resolutely: “I am committed to clearing everything up.” Forensics, consultants from EY and the law firm Hengeler Mueller – these are the keywords he uses tried to clear up the issue: “We are making good progress.” But we will still have to go through a lot of documents and have a lot of discussions. It will take months until results are available. Otherwise, as usual in criminal cases, Harings can point out that he has to keep quiet because of the ongoing investigations by the criminal authorities.
The extent of the damage is greater
The public prosecutor’s office has two criminal complaints, one for theft, one for fraud, not much more is said about it. In the first case, a major raid shed some light on a gang that had apparently uninhibitedly seized the valuable raw materials produced in a copper smelter, including gold and silver. An elite police unit used a clearing tank and shot two guard dogs to storm a clan’s property, the “Bild am Sonntag” newspaper reported a few weeks after the raid.
Cars, watches, weapons and cash were confiscated, and arrest warrants for more than 20 million euros were carried out – which suggests that the extent of the damage is likely to be significantly greater. “Special processing options were set up for what was stolen from us,” said the Aurubis boss in an interview with the FAZ: “This is a new type of crime.”
Apparently independent of this case, another group of criminals tried to falsify the quality of delivered recycled materials on paper in such a way that Aurubis paid the supplier much more than would be appropriate based on the composition of the scrap. This may not have been noticed for years, partly because the process is complicated: it takes weeks until the individual components are extracted from the shredded, pulverized recycling material using electrolysis: after around four weeks, copper is separated, and after six weeks, silver eight weeks of gold. And anyway, fraud in this business is not so obvious because many scrap deliveries are mixed during processing and the composition shows certain fluctuations anyway.
No employment law consequences for employees
“We are now completely clearing up. We turn over every stone, examine every process to determine whether there have been other incidents. “I don’t want to rule anything out today,” Harings announced in an interview with the FAZ at the beginning of September. Since then, security measures have been tightened considerably; there are identity checks, vehicle checks and access restrictions where there were none before.
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