Koelmel catches a break


MUNICH -- The checkered career of Michael Koelmel, head of the Leipzig-based film rights dealer and distributor Kinowelt, took another upward turn this week when Leipzig's attorney general announced it had closed its investigation into his financing of the city's new soccer stadium without filing charges.

This is, as far as is known, the last of the legal swords that have been hanging over Koelmel's head since 2001, when the first incarnation of Kinowelt went bankrupt.

But because, according to German law, such investigations can go on for months or even years before they are announced, no one can be certain that Koelmel's name has been cleared of all outstanding accusations against him.

The investigation, which was announced last summer, was prompted by an anonymous tip a year earlier claiming that Koelmel had perpetrated fraud by illegally receiving European Union funding to build the stadium. Since EU subsidies only go to cities or states, and not to individuals, the attorney general decided that the accusations "could not be confirmed."

"It's pleasing to learn that the Leipzig attorney general's office has confirmed what I said from the beginning," said Koelmel in a media statement.

Koelmel, as principle investor, will be the owner-operator of Leipzig's stadium for the next 30 years, after which it will revert back to the city. Its construction, at a cost of about €60 million ($79 million), was financed mostly by bank loans.

Last November, the Munich attorney general closed an investigation into Koelmel and his brother Rainer's behavior just before the bankruptcy of the former incarnation of Kinowelt, also without filing charges.