The Flick scandal.
Eberhard von Brauchitsch use to manage West Germany's largest family business, the Flick Group. Manufacturers of explosives, tanks and bathtubs, among other items, last year Flick had revenues of more than $4 billion. Von Brauchitsch had a habit of keeping meticulous records of his transactions, and it was those neatly filed notes that precipitated the downfall of Speaker of the Bundestag Rainer Barzel and Economic Minister Count Otto von Lambsdorff, as well as his own dismissal from the firm.
Von Brauchitsch's files record that both Barzel and von Lambsdorff took enormous sums given them by Flick subsidiaries. Barzel was paid some $680,000 allegedly to clear the way for Helmut Kohl to become the Christian Democrats' leader. Von Lambsdorff accepted Flick money on behalf of his Free Democrat Party at the very time the government was giving Flick a tax exemption worth millions of dollars on its sale of Daimler-Benz stock.
Little is known about how Friedrich Karl Flick runs his companies. A retiring man, Flick avoids his group's Dusseldorf headquarters and instead issues orders form his home in Bavaria to a few trusted managers, until recently including von Brauchitsch.
Although von Brauchitsch and Flick were schoolmates and had worked together since 1960, they have not always got along. Von Brauchitsch left briefly in the early 1970s to work with right-publishing magnate Axel Springer. He returned in 1972, reputedly only after a deathbed request by Flick's father that he be rehired. (The elder Friedrich Flick was a Nazi war criminal, convicted of using 48,000 slave laborers 80 percent of whom died, in his factories. He served a short prison sentence after the war.)
Despite his dismissal in late 1982 and federal investigations into the estimated $10 million in payments Flick made to various West German politicians, von Brauchitsch remains on the boards of directors of at least a dozen other firms. No doubt he thought the payments funneled to the politicians would sterm what he has called a tide of socialism in Germay. So far, the only politicians certifiably untainted by Flick money are the Greens.