Germany: Widow of former brewery magnate accused of manslaughter by omission

Bruno H. Schubert died about eight years ago but his life and especially his death is still subject of speculations in German gossip magazines. He was the heir and former majority shareholder of Henninger Bräu from Frankfurt, Germany, which under his aegis ranked number three amongst all breweries in Germany and had subsidiaries around the world.

Now, several local newspapers reported that Schubert’s 62 years younger widow, who had fled to her home country Etiopia, is accused of manslaughter by omission and tax evasion.

Schubert was in his early days a respected member of the Frankfurt noble society. He acted as Consul General of Chile, founding member of the Frankfurt Zoological Society and the German section of the World Wildlife Fund, and he was bearer of German Grand Federal Cross of Merit and honorary citizen of his home city. He was known to invite daily the most influential personalities for lunch at his noble Sachsenhausen villa next to the brewery.

After the death of his wife Ingeborg Schubert in February 2009, Bruno H. Schubert celebrated an even more flamboyant and excessive life-style. He had married his wife, who was the mistress of his father, at his behest to legalize the status of his father’s illegitimate daughter Renate Schubert. The young actress died at the age of 25 as a result of anorexia nervosa.

As it became known later, Bruno H. Schubert held close contacts to the Frankfurt redlight district where he invited young woman to accompany him. His escorts were often 60 years younger than him. He showered them with generous gifts like jewelry, apartments or sports cars and thus spent much of his money he got from the sale of his brewery in 1980 - money he originally wanted to leave to his charitable Bruno H. Schubert Foundation, a foundation to promote science and the implementation of scientific knowledge in countering threats to nature, animals and the environment.

In July 2009 at the age of nearly 90 Schubert married Meharit Kifle, a 25 year old Ethiopian with Belgian passport. After his marriage, Schubert sued his own foundation because the board of trustees was allegedly not duly staffed. In truth, though, it is believed that his wife and a Frankfurt lawyer wanted to move into the body, where Schubert’s illegitimate son Hanns Peter Nerger acted from the same year on as the foundation’s director. Nevertheless, the foundation rejected this claim.

Shortly after that, Schubert became a nursing case. Old friends and intimates were no longer allowed to visit the old man and his new wife was obliged to look after the old man according to the marriage contract. When people close to him questioned the quality of the care, she made a video showing her as a loving and caring wife and leaked it to local media.

Schubert also changed his last will and made Meharit instead of his foundation the sole heir of his remaining fortune. In October 2010 Schubert died.  The foundation and its director, his son Nerger challenged the testament but lost the case through all instances.

Another case, however, even after eight years is not closed but is coming now to an end. “The investigation is essentially completed," says the prosecutor, who is already the third dealing with the case of the millionaire's death. The widow is accused of manslaughter by omission. Schubert’s son Nerger says Kifle caused his father’s death  by not giving him enough to drink. It is even possible that Schubert was poisoned with painkillers.

Schubert's body had been exhumed almost two years after his death and examined by forensic medicine. The toxicological report revealed traces of opiates that were not documented in the medical records. That's why the investigation was also directed against Schubert's longtime doctor Dr. Michael Mohn. Shortly before the doctor was questioned, he died under mysterious circumstances. During a walk in France he fell into a small river and drowned.

Meharit Schubert will most likely face also a second charge. Local press reported last week an arrest warrant had been issued for the widow. Allegedly she did not pay a fine of € 100,000 for the evasion of gift tax since she did not declare the numerous gifts, she received from Schubert.

Schubert's former mistress, Svetlana M., was already imprisoned for tax evasion two and a half years after being seven months in custody before.

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