Sunday, March 10, 2013

Austrian Smuggling Ring Uncovered in Garmisch

A Boston Blickbild Exclusive

 US skier Julia Mancuso's Go-Pro camera is still missing and may never  be recovered. While searching for the culprit who stole it, and the person who made a death threat to Slovenian skier Tina Maze, the German police discovered that several of the Austrian skiers were involved in a theft and smuggling ring. We dispatched one of our intrepid reporters to Garmisch with the hope of talking with the police chief, but he was unavailable. We then tried to talk to the Rosenheim police chief, but he had just resigned in disgrace. Not to be deterred, our intrepid reporter was able to find not one, but two, actors who play detectives on TV who were willing to be interviewed about the case. The Blickbild presents an interview with Jan Dose and Max Mueller. Jan plays Kriminalkommissar Robert Baehr in the ZDF TV series Die Garmisch Cops. Max plays Polizeikommissar Michael "Michi" Mohr in the ZDF TV series Die Rosenheim Cops.

BB: Who discovered this theft and smuggling ring, Die Rosenheim Cops, Die Garmisch Cops, or the real police?
Dose: I would like to think that my fellow cast members and I had a hand in solving the crime. We are always willing to help the real law enforcement officers.
Mueller: My fellow cast members and I were probably more instrumental than yours. After all, my program has been on the air ten years longer. Die Rosenheim Cops have much more experience than Die Garmisch Cops when it comes to solving tough crimes. My show is better than yours!
BB: Our readers who live in Germany can decide for themselves which program they prefer. In the meantime, tell our readers how this theft ring worked.
Mueller: It was quite a sophisticated system. One of the Austrian skiers would steal a small item from another skier. This would be something that would not necessarily be missed, like a hat or glove liners. When an Austrian fan would ask the skier for an autograph or to pose for a photo, the skier would give the fan the stolen item as a gift. It would then end up back in Austria with the fan.
BB: A lot of questions come to mind. The first is we know that these items were being sold on the black market and the money was going to the Austrian Ski Federation (OeSV). How were the skiers able to retrieve the stolen items from the fans?
Mueller: Here is what made the system work. When the fan received the stolen item, the skier also gave him or her an autograph card with a very tiny tracking device in it. The skiers involved in the ring would use the signal from the autograph card to find the fan and the item and then get it back.
BB: How would the skiers figure out that a fan was Austrian?
Mueller: By the accent. Anyone brought up in Austria can figure out all of the different Austrian regional accents.
BB: And how were the skiers able to convince the recipients of the stolen items to give them back?
Mueller: The skiers would send one of their servicemen to get the items.
BB: I am assuming that no Mafia hit men were involved?
Dose: It's my turn to answer the question.
Mueller: Hey, you had a whole interview to yourself. Remember, junior, I have more experience playing a detective than you do.
BB: You two are as bad as five-year-olds with your bickering. It's a wonder that the Garmisch and Rosenheim Cops are able to solve any crimes. Anyway, were Mafia hit men involved in getting the stolen items back from the fans?
Dose: No. The Austrian skiers appear to have civilized sponsors and used gentler methods to retrieve the stolen items. Usually free tickets to a ski race and a large supply of Milka candy would do the trick. If the fan still insisted on keeping the item, the serviceman would offer an Austria team ski jacket or a ski day with a retired Austrian star.
BB: What if a skier in possession of a stolen object could not find a willing Austrian fan to accept it?
Mueller: That happened a few times. In those cases they would give it to one of their teammates whose hometown was just inside the Austrian border. That skier was then responsible for selling the item.
BB: How did the Austrian women become part of a theft ring? They seem so sweet and innocent.
Mueller: Their sweetness is the perfect cover. It started about three or four seasons ago as a lark. One of the Austrian women, who shall remain nameless, decided to take Maria Hoelf-Riesch's Milka hat. Maria never missed the hat because Milka supplies its skiers with so many of them. But the nameless Austrian skier felt guilty for hanging onto it and decided to sell it to get rid of it. She made quite a bit of money, which she donated to the OeSV. She was then asked by higher-ups in the OeSV to steal more items and sell them. Pretty soon just about every Milka Girl started missing things like hats, t-shirts, glove liners, pens, and goggles.
Dose: To deflect suspicion from the Austrian women who were either Milka Girls, or good friends with them, others were recruited into the scheme. They were asked to take small items from other women on the tour, not just the Milka Girls, and sell them. But some of the skiers come from very small villages in Austria and would be viewed suspiciously if they showed up in their hometowns with the stolen items. The ladies got together and decided that the best way to get the items into Austria was to hand them off to unwitting fans. Someone in the OeSV invented a homing chip that was small enough to be put onto an autograph card and that's when the thefts really took off.
BB: Didn't any of the women report the stolen objects?
Mueller: No. They were things that could easily have been misplaced. But as the Austrian ladies became more successful, they became confident to the point of being cocky. One of the women started taking small cameras that the sponsors had provided.
BB: When did this theft ring finally get discovered?
Mueller: Last weekend in Garmisch. There were two incidents that blew the theft ring apart. The first was that Tina Maze happened to catch one of the Austrian women slipping a camera into her jacket pocket after downhill training. It turned out to be Tina's little camera. The Austrian skier told Tina, "If you tell anyone what you just saw, I'll have to kill you."
BB: So the death threats against Tina had nothing to do with all of the records that she set this season?
Dose: That's right. Tina witnessed something illegal and the Austrians simply wanted her silence. I can't imagine that they would actually kill her. Petty theft is one thing, but murder is a whole other ball game.
Mueller: The second thing that busted the Austrians was a fan who we will call Rosi. Rosi posed for a photo in Garmisch with one of the Austrian skiers and got a camera as a gift from that skier. When Rosi returned home to Vienna, that skier's serviceman was waiting for her and asked her to return the camera. He offered all of the usual incentives: chocolate, free race tickets, OeSV replica clothing. Nothing worked. Rosi insisted on keeping the camera and told the serviceman that she would go to the police if he kept bothering her. The serviceman left, but Rosi called the police anyway about the camera. It turned out that it belonged to one of the French skiers. The camera was returned to its proper owner. The French Ski Federation gave Rosi a nice camera as a reward.
BB: How many of the Austrian women were involved in this theft ring?
Mueller: After a short time, the whole team was involved. Even skiers coming up from the Europa Cup onto the World Cup had to do an initiation ritual of stealing something, passing it on to a fan, and then later selling it. A lot of people benefitted from this theft ring. The OeSV earned extra money, photographers and printers were employed making autograph cards, and even engineers were given jobs designing invisible tracking devices for autograph cards.
BB: Will the Austrian women be punished?
Mueller: They should be forced to watch Die Garmisch Cops. That should be punishment enough.
Dose: Hey, that was uncalled for! I never made fun of Die Rosenheim Cops, but you are taking every opportunity to slam my show in this interview.
BB: I thought that police agencies are supposed to put aside their differences and cooperate with each other to fight crime. It's a good thing you aren't real policemen or we'd all be in trouble. Anyway, I asked if the Austrian women will be punished for the thefts.
Mueller: It looks like they will not be punished at all for their crimes. In fact, at the season opener in Soelden the OeSV ladies were given a special award for their extra contributions. The Austrian government realized that if this ring were shut down, the whole country's economy could collapse because of all of the jobs it generated.  But if this were an episode of Die Rosenheim Cops, all of the skiers, their servicemen, and the head of the OeSV would  rot in jail.
Dose: If these thefts were a Garmisch Cops episode, everyone involved would be in jail for life. The Austrians would then have to find new skiers who were untainted by this scandal.
BB: What about Julia Mancuso's Go-Pro camera? Was that also taken by one of the Austrians and sold on the black market?
Mueller: We are reasonably certain that Julia's camera was taken by this theft ring. I'm sure it has already been sold somewhere in Austria or even the East Bloc. Unfortunately, Julia may have to buy herself another camera. Nobody has been able to find it.
BB: Is there anything else either of you would like to tell our readers?
Mueller: Yes. You can watch Die Rosenheim Cops Tuesday nights at 17.25 on ZDF.
Dose: You can watch Die Garmisch Cops anytime online for free.
BB: Then decide for yourselves which show and which cops are better. And that concludes another Boston Blickbild exclusive interview.

The Boston Blickbild. Our motto is: I turned my back for one second and now my gloves are missing.

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