Schneiders charged over pounds 1.9bn collapse

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Jurgen Schneider, the property tycoon whose empire collapsed in 1994 leaving debts of DM5bn (pounds 1.9bn), was formally charged yesterday with fraud and forgery. If convicted, he faces a prison term of up to 15 years.

Mr Schneider and his wife, Claudia, who was also indicted yesterday for bankruptcy fraud, fled from creditors in April 1994, leaving a gaping hole in the accounts. The couple were discovered a year later in Miami and extradited to Germany.

Frankfurt prosecutors allege he had tricked his creditors, including Germany's largest banks, into giving loans by falsifying the value of his assets. At the time of his disappearance, he owed money to 1,600 people and companies. Deutsche Bank, his biggest creditor, lost DM45m, a figure once famously dismissed by a senior executive of the bank as "peanuts".

Though Mr Schneider blames his woes on the negligence of the banks, the prosecutors said they had found no such evidence. In the prosecutors' view, the rags-to riches tycoon who struck gold with the reunification of Germany, had obtained credit from banks under false pretences, by overstating his rental income and presenting forged bills. Mr Schneider was also charged with shunting DM245m into Swiss bank accounts in the last days of his reign.