Mask affair: “Dickes Bussi”


Status: 04.11.2021 6:00 p.m.

Previously unknown SMS messages from Union politicians Jens Spahn, Monika Hohlmeier and Melanie Huml shed new light on one of the most expensive mask deals in the pandemic.

By Markus Grill, WDR / NDR

In 2020, German ministries bought corona protective masks from the Swiss company Emix for almost 700 million euros. Not only was it one of the biggest mask deals in the pandemic, but also one of the most expensive. The federal government paid an average of 5.58 euros per mask to Emix, Bavaria 8.90 euros and NRW even 9.90 euros per FFP2 mask. The profit of Emix, a mini company of two young Swiss entrepreneurs, should amount to 100 to 200 million euros. The company does not provide any precise information. Upon request, it only announced that the profit was less than 50 percent.

To sell the goods in Germany, Emix relied on the help of Andrea Tandler, daughter of the former CSU General Secretary Gerold Tandler. She runs a small PR agency called “Little Penguin” with her partner Darius N. Before the pandemic broke out, Andrea Tandler was advertising Bavarian beer, Bavarian muesli and Bavarian country house furniture with another company. But the mask deals immediately catapulted the little penguin into another league. She is said to have received between 5 and 7.5 percent commission from Emix, depending on the contract. In May 2020 alone, 14 million euros should have flowed to Tandler’s PR agency, according to estimates it should have been between 34 and 51 million euros in total.

SMS correspondence on mask deal

But to offer the goods to German ministries, Tandler needed help. On February 28, 2020, she sent an SMS to the CSU MEP Monika Hohlmeier, who is a friend of her, and daughter of the former Bavarian Prime Minister Franz-Josef Strauss. She reported to “dear Moni” that “a friend from Switzerland” had a large inventory of corona protective masks. Hohlmeier wrote an SMS message to the Bavarian Health Minister Melanie Huml (CSU) and asked “Dear Melanie” whether Bavaria needed protective masks, the dealer allegedly demanded normal prices. When Tandler asked whether there was already an answer from the Bavarian Health Minister Melanie Huml, Hohlmeier texted that Bavaria was very interested in buying the masks.

After the acceptance from Bavaria, Tandler asked her party friend Hohlmeier whether she also had contact with the federal government and urged that she needed a decision quickly. Hohlmeier texted Federal Health Minister Spahn directly and offered “dear Jens” three million protective masks. She herself was in no way financially involved in the deal, as she announced in one of the text messages that NDR, WDR and “Süddeutsche Zeitung” (SZ). Spahn texted back the same evening that there was a clear need, she should send the offer to the Bundestag email address of his employee, he would then feed it in.

Upon request, Monika Hohlmeier admits that she “brokered the contacts requested by Andrea Tandler with the health ministries in Munich and Berlin”. However, she was “not even remotely known” about the prices of Emix and “personally I do not think it is right to charge excessive commissions in an emergency”. On request, the Swiss trading company Emix only reports on the SMS messages that have now become known: “As a matter of principle, we do not comment on personal correspondence.”

“Protect you and me. Lg Jens”

In May 2020, however, Emix had problems. The management consultancy EY, commissioned by the Ministry of Health, stopped paying outstanding bills of 168 million euros to Swiss retailers because there were allegedly quality problems with some masks. Tandler let her contacts with Hohlmeier play again and now urgently asked her for help. In the last few months everything had been done to supply Germany with protective masks, she wrote, but now they wanted to bleed Emix to death. The company is facing a disaster. Hohlmeier may please help. “Big kiss”.

That same evening, Hohlmeier contacted “dear Jens” and passed the message on to Tandler. She asked him to take care of it quickly, as EY didn’t seem fair to Emix. Spahn, however, was already cautious. He reminded Hohlmeier in a text message that investigative committees would still deal with the whole thing in the future. That is why he does not want to exert any political influence. “Protect you and me. Lg Jens,” Spahn texted to Hohlmeier.

Spahn and Tandler are silent

Spahn himself does not want to comment on the news when asked. Emix confirms that there are “outstanding” the Federal Ministry of Health in the millions. To do this, one “naturally and legitimately” uses all channels.

Monika Hohlmeier, in turn, announced that the basis of her message to Jens Spahn was the “literally reproduced SMS from Andrea Tandler”. “I thought Emix was serious,” writes Hohlmeier. Of course, it was about “no political influence”, she just wanted to inform Spahn. “I heard later that part of it had been paid.”

Hohlmeier has repeatedly emphasized that she did not receive any financial benefits for establishing contacts on behalf of Tandler. Why did Tandler turn on her friend Hohlmeier again when Emix argued with the Spahn Ministry over more than 168 million euros? Was it trying to use political ties to get better treatment? This question of NDR, WDR and “Süddeutscher Zeitung” left Tandler unanswered, as did all other questions about her role in the mask deals.

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