AFP06/09/2012By [Printer Friendly Version]
A German government minister has come under fire after a carpet he bought during an official visit to Afghanistan was flown home at the state's expense without paying customs duty.
Dirk Niebel's Development ministry has admitted that the carpet, reportedly measuring 97sq feet and weighing 66 pounds, was transported free of charge by the German foreign intelligence service.
The ministry said the transportation on May 20 from Kabul to Berlin on the jet of the chief of the secret service was done as "a personal favour".
Niebel, who is a member of the pro-business Free Democrats, a junior partner in Chancellor Angela Merkel's coalition, had left the carpet bought for his personal use in March for about 1,100 euros (£888) at the German embassy in Kabul because he could not transport it on his scheduled flight home.
A driver picked up the carpet when it finally arrived at a Berlin airport, Spiegel Online said.
And, as a result of a "misunderstanding", the customs procedures were not immediately seen to, the ministry said adding that only this week had the paperwork been sought covering the tax on the carpet.
But the opposition Social Democratic Party (SPD) has called for an explanation, with Thomas Oppermann, chief SPD whip, saying the minister must explain "how he plans to overcome the damage that has arisen".
Niebel stressed the procedure to pay the custom duty was now in hand. "I regret that the claim for payment of duty was only done with a delay," he said to Spiegel Online.
"Obviously I always comply with all my legal duties in my professional and private business," he added.