Award-winning writer may have also embezzled money, publication says
Der Spiegel is planning to file a criminal complaint that alleges a former writer solicited donations for Syrian orphans from readers and sent the proceeds to his personal account, BBC News reported.
The announcement came after the top news magazine stated last week that award-winning staff writer Claas Relotius admitted to fabricating portions of stories he wrote for the publication.
Relotius’ troubles began when an Arizona woman, Jan Foley, emailed him in December to ask where he got information for his story about a vigilante group conducting patrols along the Mexico border. Foley, who handled media requests for the group, said Relotius never spoke with any of its members.
The latest part of the scandal involves readers that contacted Der Spiegel to report that Relotius allegedly solicited donations for orphans in Turkey, the BBC reported. According to the readers, they were asked to send money to his personal account.
Relotius, 33, has not publicly responded to the embezzlement allegations, the report stated. It is not yet clear how much money was collected and where it was sent. Der Spiegel is currently gathering more evidence for prosecutors.
Relotius’ request for donations was related to a story he wrote about two Syrian street-children, a brother and sister, in Turkey. Der Spiegal also determined that parts of the story were made-up.
A Turkish photographer who worked with Relotius on the story said the writer made up some facts about the boy’s life and embellished others. The photographer also said it is possible the sister does not exist, according to the BBC’s report.
Richard Grenell, the American ambassador to Germany, wrote to Der Spiegel’s editor to demand an independent investigation. He also accused the publication of bias against the U.S., partly because it has carried stories that are critical of President Donald Trump.
What were the other stories?
The publication previously stated that Relotius fabricated at least 14 articles and that figure could be higher. Der Spiegel has also indicated the writer’s actions were done “intentionally” and “methodically.”
One of the details fabricated in a story by Relotius was that he saw a hand-painted sign in Minnesota town that stated: “Mexicans Keep Out.” False information was also reportedly found in his stories about FL quarterback Colin Kaepernick and inmates at Guantanamo Bay.
Relotius, who was fired, reportedly told Der Spiegel he was deeply sorry and ashamed of what he did. Although he admitted to making up portions of 14 stories, he claimed that many of the 60 articles he wrote were true and accurate.
The Hamburg-based publication called the scandal “a low point in Der Spiegel’s 70-year history.”