One man, 24 children: Jonathan A.'s cheating scandal is making waves in the media. This German of Nigerian immigrant origin collects hundreds of thousands of euros in social benefits every year for his supposed children and his mothers. But Jonathan A. is not the father of these children.

German tax money for 94 members of a family

On a large scale he has recognized paternities with African women of different nationalities. All of her formal children and her mother automatically receive a residence permit in Germany and the right to receive financial assistance from the German State. Jonathan's family, which now has 94 members, costs the Federal Republic, and therefore German taxpayers, more than 1.5 million euros; and annually.

The Jonathan A. scandal is not an isolated case. His story is an example of the abuse of paternity recognition in Germany, caused mainly by criminal gangs. According to information from ARD's Kontraste magazine, for decades there have been entire networks that benefit on a large scale from false paternity. Experts estimate that there have been tens of thousands of cases in recent years and estimate that the number of unreported cases is even higher.

False paternity snowball effect

The system works as follows: gangs approach needy Germans, for example homeless people, and offer them large cash payments of between 5,000 and 20,000 euros, on the condition that they acknowledge paternity of a child. foreign mother If the agreement is finalized, the foreign woman will automatically have access to German social benefits and the recognized child will acquire German citizenship. In exchange, the mother has to pay thousands of euros in “bonuses” to criminal intermediaries.

“False paternity consists of allowing people who actually have no prospects of staying in Germany to stay in Germany,” Axel Boshamer, from the highest immigration authority of the Arnsberg district government, said in an interview with the newspaper “Kontraste.” , in North Rhine-Westphalia. According to Boshamer, there are more and more suspected cases in his state of children of mothers from West African and Western Balkan countries. “These people are willing to pay money for it, usually to the person who assumes fictitious paternity.”

These recognitions of paternity then cause a snowball effect because the mother acquires the right to social benefits in Germany; that is, for her and all her children. Entire families are integrated into the German social system without ever having contributed to it.

“On average, five people enter the German social system with a single abusive recognition of paternity,” Tobias M., an employee of the social welfare office of a city in western Germany, told the Neue Zürcher Zeitung newspaper. “This costs us five million euros a year here.” According to information from the Bild newspaper, the damage caused by this scam throughout Germany amounts to more than 150 million euros per year.

Fatal gap in the legal system

But how is something like this possible?

The story of this false paternity begins with a simple but serious error in the German legal system: according to article 1592 of the Civil Code (BGB), a man can recognize the paternity of a child even if he is not the biological father. This regulation was once created to protect mothers in case of unwanted pregnancies. Once a child is recognized by a German parent, this recognition cannot be revoked.

Although the paragraph is evidently being exploited en masse by false parents, the situation has continued for twenty years. Since 2017, there has been a preventive abuse control in the statute that prohibits improper recognition of paternity. The paternity recognition process is suspended if there is concrete evidence that paternity is not legal.

But there is also a serious problem here: “The recognition of paternity cannot be abusive if the person who recognizes it is the biological father of the child who is going to be recognized,” he says. However, the father may not be required to undergo any DNA testing. Then the law turns out to be a blunt weapon.

Criminal gangs are rarely caught

“This is an inadequate regulation that rarely occurs,” Harald Dörig, a former judge at the Federal Administrative Court in the field of immigration law, said in an interview with the newspaper Kontraste. Even if the father did not claim to have a relationship with the woman, he could acknowledge her paternity. “This is also the reason why we have to incorporate some requirements here, for example a family social relationship,” says Dörig. However, this is currently not being controlled at all by the certification bodies.

Authorities rarely manage to uncover a criminal business model behind such schemes. In a current case, the Berlin prosecutor's office has brought charges against a ten-member gang of Vietnamese origin, accused of smuggling through false marriages and recognition of paternity. This group is said to have paid German “fathers” in the homeless community between €500 and €1,500 to acknowledge the paternity of at least 20 children of Vietnamese mothers. In exchange, they raised up to 35,000 euros from Vietnamese mothers.

At the request of “ARD Contrasts”, the Federal Ministry of Justice has announced that a new bill on the issue of false paternity will soon be presented. An exact time was not given. Meanwhile, Jonathan A. has already requested two more paternity acknowledgments.

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