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Germany’s James Bond has been hauled into court for not paying his taxes

Werner Mauss claims he has thwarted military coups, hunted down some 2,000 criminals, and prevented a mafia attempt to poison Pope Benedict XVI. But the legendary secret agent couldn’t outrun the German tax authorities.

The 76-year-old is up before a county court in Bochum, North Rhine-Westphalia, today (Sept. 26), charged with evading €15 million ($16.9 million) worth of back taxes on undeclared bank accounts. The indictment document includes all his aliases (link in German): Claus Möllner, Dieter Koch, Richard Nelson—three of those married, one not—born in Essen, in Hagen, in Wuppertal, or nowhere.

Mauss will be questioned on large sums of money he received from foreign sources between 2003 and 2013, and stored in offshore bank accounts in Luxembourg, Liechtenstein, and the Bahamas. The core of the case concerns a fortune stashed in an undeclared Luxembourg UBS affiliate, which lists Mauss as the account holder.

Mauss denies the charges, claiming that he earned his fortune honestly during decades of dangerous work. His lawyers argue that the money in the accounts came from Western and Israeli intelligence officials to fund security operations, and were transferred to the Luxembourg account, of which Mauss was the trustee. He faces several years in jail if he’s found guilty.

The secret agent is a living legend in Germany. He worked for Germany’s Federal Intelligence Agency until 2000, and for years there wasn’t a single picture of him in circulation. He famously said that he found James Bond films too boring, given the death-defying nature of his own line of work: “I fight death and the devil.”

After his years of service, Germany’s first undercover spy, as he bills himself, became a private detective. His website says he specializes in hostage rescue, and has also been instrumental in the arrests of 2,000 criminals. His lists of missions makes for juicy reading.

Like Ian Fleming’s own James Bond, Mauss is a sophisticated operator who enjoys the finer things in life, like fast cars and horses. His dealings have not always been squeaky clean. As far back as 1997, the Los Angeles Times ran an article entitled “Who is Werner Mauss?” when Colombian authorities alleged that he was a terrorist mercenary who plotted kidnappings of foreign executives only to negotiate multimillion-dollar ransoms to free them.

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