WCCB: UN City Built by SMI Hyundai, or why Frank-Walter Steinmeier dissappeared

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UN – Emblem on top of a former Parliament Office Tower in Bonn, now housing various agencies of the United Nations Organization.

During the last weeks the former Capital of Germany went through „rough air“.

Bonn especially the City Council and the administration was shaken by different unannounced turbulences.

Police round ups, interrogations by the office of the district attorney, detentention of several individuals, closely connected with the functional transformation of the former parliament buildings.

Once the government left Bonn for Berlin, the complex changed its name from IKKB (Internationales Kongress und Konferenzzentrum Bonn) to UNCC (United Nations Conference Center) and finally became the WCCB (World Conference Center Bonn), an agglomeration of older buildings and a new structure or rather brandnew, because the project has not been finished yet. To date inoperative WebCams symbolize the building freeze.

This will remain so for an indefinite time, due to insufficient investment by the construction firm of SMI Hyundai Europe and a totally unresolved ownership case between Arazim Ltd. Cyprus and South Korean Incurance Companies led by Dongbu Insurance Co. Ltd.

The catastrophy most probably would have not occured, if „Lady Mayor“ Bärbel Dieckmann, in the meantime Honorary President of the Welthungerhilfe WHH (German Aid against World Hunger), would have stuck to the rules: no start, not even for a one – familiy house without an adeaquate balance of equity and debt capital. Now leaving office after 15 years, the impeachment of the political majority for her pulling off the dubious WCCB-Deal came too late.

As it turned out, "investor" number one, Dr. ManKi Kim, head of SMI Hyundai Construction (here engaged in a small talk with Matthias Schultze in Martin Schilling´s "Rheinlobby"), in fall 2006 had neither the one nor the other. But this did not seem to bother Bonn´s city official Bärbel Dieckmann shortly before the groundbreaking ceremony, and not even during the laying of the foundation stone, half a year later on May 25th, 2007.

(For further background information see:"WCCB: World Conference Center Bonn – The Odyssey of SMI Hyundai")

In the meantime after two years of building process, three individuals, German lawyer Dr. Michael Thielbeer from Düsseldorf, South Korean lawyer Ha-Sung Chung, from Frankfurt  and architect Young-Ho Hong, from Berlin were taken into custody.

Shortly afterwards all three companies (SMI Hyundai Europe, UNCC and the WCCB Management Inc.) became insolvent, due to lack of investment money. Before that, Bärbel Dieckmann offered to resolve the problem with her administration alone, but the City Council of Bonn had enough of more than two years of single handed actions. Council members decided to cancel the agreement with SMI/Hyundai/UNCC by September 2009.

Later the local savings bank accelerated the loan of 104 Mio. Euros which turned the whole operation into a scandal somewhat „bigger than life“.

Now national newspapers slowly cover up with the ongoing story which simmers within the Web 2.0 since March 2009.

But sometimes, condemned persons live longer.

Several days ago, the SMI Hyundai web-pages became locked, obiously someone was working „behind the wall“ and changed content.

In fact, careful observers of these websites noticed, that due to the detention of the architect Young – Ho Hong, his CEO rank of European Director was downgraded to architect and general contractor. Finally his image dissappeared (1) from the executive page, but his position remained reviewable within the main context (2).

Also disappeared from the CEO page, the photo of Choong – Hong Cho, president of SMI Hyundai Remodeling Inc. who can be seen at the groundbreakin ceremony far hand right.

Within the same time the link to the groundbreaking page – the shovel – scene of the Bonn – City websites did not work either. By controlling the Bonn city homepage one finds all before 2007 is obviously condemned to remain yesterday´s bad memories. This image has also been erased from the SMI Hyundai pages as if one would not like to recall this German – South Korean cooperation.

In fact Wilfried Klein, leader of the Bonn-Partei (SPD parliamentary group), from Dransdorf village, brakes down the highly complex situation of hope, money, ego, visions and corruption to a straightforward one – dimensional reading: „we got screwed, good and proper".

Cheated too, feels every inhabitant of Bonn´s  „UN – City“ who activates by one click the video of KBS News with the title: „ UN – City Built by SMI Hyundai“.

A lot of things are not very well balanced: the UN – symbol is shown at the very beginning  and Hong is talking of the building beeing the symbolic center of UN – City. But physically there is none, just one medium size UN – Skysraper, conference facilities and auditoriums.

Together with the emblem, the UNCC letters indicate, that there is no sensitivity in terms of UN branding regulations.

Given the fact that South Korean Mr. Ban – Ki – Moon, Secretary General of the UN is also shown on one page with Dr. ManKi Kim (see photo at bootom below with Schultze from SMI) who is now sought with an international warrant, these websites seem to be superfluous, since the firm seized to exist.

So far nobody of the official administration in Bonn has seen the double impact of economic and political implications of words like: „SMI HYUNDAI endeavours to have a continued and intensified active cooperation with the UN. For this end already today conventions of the United Nations are being hosted by the facilities of SMI HYUNDAI.“

Basically the websites tell planning and „event“ – stories and show a lot of pictures, videos and images of the former office of SMI Hyundai in Bonn, which reminds of another unresolved „crime“ story in the web, the „former offices od SMI Hyundai in Lybia

Wether these aerial „snaps“ illustrate a true story or not, remains unknown. Fact is, that the story in Lybia is almost identical to the  one in Bonn, with the exception, that the building stands upright, nearly finished to about 80 %.

Even if the „Lybian fraud“ would be false accuse of a fired employee, the political implications are analogous. The WCCB from the very beginning was a piece within the political tour, when foreign guests, partyleaders or government officials  came to Bonn.

UN Secretary General Ban – Ki Moon, Chancellor Angela Merkel (3) and Minister of Defence Franz Josef Jung (4) visited the WCCB (former SMI – UNCC, which was misleading due to the UN – UNCC), to name a few.

Also Frank – Walter Steinmeier, German Minister of Foreign Affairs came to see the construction site….Uhhpps…. where is the link to the SMI Hyundai page?

It is gone (5),  somebody in Reston Virginia at SMI Hyundai Headquarters must have removed or blocked the website…! Thankfully there is a trace of this website left…

Also 09/2007 Newsletter of the German Convention Bureau (GCB) in Frankfurt gives proof that F.W. Steinmeier was there with Bärbel Dieckmann, Evi Zwiebler and Arno Hübner. They spoke with „Young – Ho Hong, President of Europe Operation, SMI HYUNDAI Corporation and with Matthias Schultze, Vice-President of SMI HYUNDAI Management Inc. both here depicted in an official session of the communal parliament in Bonn, while interrogated by politicans, shortly before SMI Hyundai Europe Inc. went insolvent. 

F.- W. Steinmeier learnt a lot about the WorldCCBonn by visiting the site, looking at the architectural model and watching a video. Despite his crammed appointment pad, Steinmeier had a quiet and extensive information round."

SMI Hyundai`s contract was cancelled by vote of the city council,  both firms are insolvent, the – now. honourable – chairman of SMI Hyundai is on the run, Young Ho Hong, downgraded  President of SMI Hyundai is no longer in custody because he confessed bribery to lawyer Thielbeer (still imprisoned).

"Mayoress" Bärbel Dieckmann (here as "helpful actress" during the groundbreaking ceremony) with project coordinator Zwiebler and project manager Hübner now have to assist the district attorney to find out why the „investors“ could so easily „cheat“ the City of Bonn for over two years.

Bärbel Dieckmann ordered assistance by lawyers and penelogists for this interrogation.

To resolve the mystery of the disappearance of Frank Walter Steinmeier´s visit on the SMI Hyundai website, one ist certainly led to an ironic story, which was part of the election battle of Urich Kelber.

Working with the Web.2.0, twittering and sometimes attacking bloggers in a rambo – like manner, Kelber (SPD) did not answer why he, as member of the Deutsche Bundestag, never took a profound stance on the WCCB/SPD – scandal in his hometown Bonn.

In fact there was no obvious assistance nor outspoken solidarity for SPD party member Bärbel Dieckmann.

The „missing link“ to Steinmeiers visit was found in the blog entry with the German pun „No answer – an answer of Ulrich Kelber“.

„Zum Glück war Doppelagent Penderok nicht bei der Besichtigung der Werftanlagen mit Außenminister Frank – Walter Steinmeier dabei, das sind ja sensible Bereiche, zu denen nur Kapitän Kim, der 1. Offizier Hong, Frau Zwiebler und der Chef der Stabsabteilung Arno Hübner Zutritt haben“

(As it turned out much  later, Penderok indeed was part of the entourage of the Steinmeier visit, as  it can be seen in a photo of Barbara Frommann in the Bonner Generalanzeiger)

The click on the words: „tour visit to the dockyards“ (standing for the WCCB construction site) leads to nowhere! The whole story is rather critical and cynical towards the election slogans of Ulrich Kelber („strong in Berlin, good for Bonn“).

Therefore the only rational explanation for blocking the website is to get rid of this scandalous WCCB issue before the forthcoming election of the SPD chairpersons commitee. Kelber is running for it and can´t use any turbulences within his party.

The rigid importance of this career cornerstone shows up in Bärbel Dieckmanns interview in WorldMayors magazine.

„Since joining the SPD in 1972 Bärbel Dieckmann has served at local, regional and national level within the party structures. Since November 2005 she has been one of the SPD’s three deputy chairpersons. She has served as a member of the party’s national executive committee since 2001. In 2005 Mayor Dieckmann was short-listed for the World Mayor Prize".

One way or the other, more important question is, who has access to the websites of SMI Hyundai?

Who was always there, but never really spotted within the amalgamation of Dieckmanns administration and SMI people, as kind of double or triple agent, first on the payroll – and also on the websites – of the insolvent European branch of SMI Hyundai.

Who gave large volume interviews in local newspapers to create a good and warm atmosphere in terms of the WCCB project, but did not manage to gurantee the money flow of the second South Korean investor?

Working in close cooperation with Arno Hübner and the inner circle of mayoress Dieckmanns „think tank“ behind closed doors, Christoph Penderok, a said to be Swiss financial expert, was perhaps „weaving a web“ in the RhineLobby, monitored by SPD city council member Martin Schilling, who was "caught" by the German TV as "rent-free" next door neighbour of the WCCB  (with an offspring of the GCB?) when the scandal broke loose. With his KK-advertising agency he was said to be somehow part of the Million-Euro-Deal "sponsored" with governmental money.

At the site visit of Guido Westerwelle (FDP), forthcoming coalition partner of Angela Merkel (CDU), Penderok, the gray hair man with the crew – cut, tried to play also an "important role."

Beeing most probably a project developer, who is getting paid, when a new investor is found, the rather banal manipulation of the SMI Hyundai website might have a severe background: it indicates the never really straightforward and mingled process of the administrative procedure which once started with an investor who looked neat, had no money, but was appraided enthusiastically in public "for its willingness to invest in the congress destination Bonn".

This operation which might be called „Grayzone“ ended with the operation „Gold“ by the state office of criminal investigation.

The ghosts of this communal nightmare will only vanish, once a sound and stable democratic basis is constructed in terms of working together, city council with administration. The „russian doll“ system, the admistration as state within a state, a lobby within the lobby sometimes hovering above law and order grounds has to disappear soon.

 In that respect, fifteen years under City-Mayor B. Dieckmann can be a very long and frustrated time

If nothing happens, UN – City will turn more and more into "UNCity".
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WCCB: World Conference Center Bonn – The Odyssey of SMI Hyundai

SKETCH OF A VESSEL TO CARRY THREE  LOADS + BUDGET OVERRUN

Eversince globalization took command, regular procedures, such as serious financing  of grand – scale projects became hazardous.

We all know, that complete credit institutions and banks sank to ground like cargo vessels hit by torpedos . Even big investments are  not screened thoroughly enough and investors  – even bankers – are colourful figures interchangeable behind curtains of moral and seriosity, sometimes unseen by the public and town officials.

Other hazards besides „crazy investors“,“ corrupt lenders“ or „crooked acountants“ are likely to occur wihin the amalgam of municipal  power and local savings banks , beeing allies of an investor to stir promising public projects .

Sometimes – and this is the case in Germany with the World Conference Center in Bonn (WCCB) –  investors promise rapid-growth market expansions  and with almost no money do manage company/community plus project into an odd position.

One project which became well known with its ups and downs is the Grand Avenue Projekt in L.A.

Investors changed, building costs went high, architects had to give up, the project ran short of money but still there are controle forces which do guarantee transparency and a steering quality in order not to burn public money.

Unlike in Bonn: because the public and the private sector (of course some privates are closer to big money than others) needed some reputational balance after the German Parliament moved to Berlin,  the City of Bonn took over the „historic Parliament buildings“ completed in 1992.  Left behind until nowadays were several ministeries, some of which turned into big multinational corporations which make Bonn not looking too bad.

City officials Bärbel Dieckmann („Oberbürgermeisterin“ = mayor,  reinterpreted by her office into „lady mayor“) and  Arno Hübner (Project comissioner) started the promising project with the hope of getting about 2.000 more jobs for Bonn, on November 3,  2006  with a groundbreaking ceremony. Co – shovelers were CEO of  SMI Hyundai, Dr. Manki Kim  and Director Choong Hong Cho of  Hyundai Remodeling & Construction Co., Ltd.

As it turned out recently, the investors purse and his credit status of the  Euro 140 Million project was not carefully examined from the very beginnig. In fact the pockets of Dr. Kim were totally empty. But wanton imagination of blooming economy in Bonn took command of mayoress „Lady Dieckmann“.

On September 17, 2009 it became evident to the public by proof of documents, presented by Dr. Klaus Peter Gilles (CDU) to the city council that one was not  informed properly and on time of all implications, ramifications and not at all about the instability of the investment in early 2007. These revelations made the meeting quite  lively.

Until now,  Euro 104 Millions were transformed into concrete, glass and steel. Building cost controlled by the city facility manager and mechanical engineer  Friedhelm Naujoks (SPD), went up  to additional 60 million Euros. No sufficient explanation to where the money went, has been handed over so far, neither to the City Council of Bonn, nor to the public.

In August 2009,  the building process in Bonn got stuck, parallel to UNFCCC Climate Change Talks in preparation for UN Climate Change Conference inCopenhagenin December. There a comprehensive international deal is to be sealed. Also stuck, with no results turned out the Bonn Climate Change Conference.

Coincidentally Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said by adressing government delegates in the interim meeting in Bangkok on Septembeer 22, 2009:  „There is no plan B. If we do not realize plan A, we go straight to plan F, which stands for failure„, meaning climate change.

Analogous to his words were the situation in Bonn in August 2009 when the project went out of hand.  Peter Finger, city council member and mayor of „The Greens“ called for Plan B, but there was none. In the meantime  the City of Bonn has to pursue Plan F, which is the search for a new investor.

Here is the whole story:

Internal political climate in Bonn drastically changed due to severe problems with the WCCB (UNCC) project since the City Council of Bonn on Sept. 24th 2009 gave way to cancel the contract with UNCC Inc. as a result of “Operation “Gold” by Bonn´s district attorney and Düsseldorf office of criminal investigation.

Statutory offense is fraud and embezzlement.

Detained for questioning were two suspects one: general contractor, architect and city planner Young Ho Hong, Berlin,  former European President of  SMI Hyundai Company, based in Reston. Va. (USA) and two: lawyer Dr. M. Thielbeer from Düsseldorf, a former consultant of the City of Bonn.

In the meantime Mr. Hong has left prison after several days of interrogation. He confessed  giving bribes to lawyer Thielbeer.  In the meantime SMI Hyundai took him from the CEO´s homepage.

Still in custody is Dr. Michael Thielbeer, CEO who runs the World Conference Center Management Inc.  He is also in charcge of other institutional offsprings connected with the WCCB such as Green Meeting. Managing Director is Matthias Schultze who is partner of other agencies, too,  like the  Bonn Sustainability Portal.

He also closely cooperates with Kreativ Konzept Convention Bureau of city council member Martin Schilling (SPD), spokesman of energy and economic matters.  Schilling on the other hand got commissions from SMI Hyundai and run the election campagne for both,  mayoress Bärbel Dieckmann and her successor Jürgen Nimptsch (SPD).

Dr. Michael Thielbeer proposed SMI Hyundai as best competitor within the investor`s race and later changed sides to SMI Hyundai Company. Bonn`s city administration headed by popular mayoress Bärbel Dieckmann (SPD),  seemed to have no problems with the „deal“. Now it turned out to be a boomerang, since Thilbeer is part of the  vertical and horizontal network around WCCB Management Inc.

Owner of the WCCB Management operating company are Dr. Thielbeer (2 %), Matthias Schultze (2%) and Young Ho Hong (94%). The  City of Bonn is symbolic shareholder. WCCB Management Inc. is subsidized by the state with 1,6 Million Euros p.a.  (for details see: „WCCB – The Desaster run it´s course„).

The project came to a screetching halt, since investor number 2, Honua Investment Management Inc. of Hawaii did not put more money into the project, due to budget overrun.

Building costs went up from projected Euro 140 Millions to 200 Millions and were  presented far too late to the City Council of Bonn.

Cost – controlling responsibility lay in the hands of city facility manager F. Naujoks (SPD) for the Cologne-Bonn Savings Bank, loane provider to the City of Bonn.

Behind Honua´s small firm with CEO Andrew Seung Tae Jang stands Korean multicorporate enterprise  Dongbu Insurance Co. Ltd.  one firm out of the „New Investors“ of the Grand Avenue Project in L.A.

More severe problems, which recently became apparent, were caused already in August 2007, when CEO Dr. ManKi Kim transferd 94% of UNCC to Honua despite the fact that UNCC before was pledged to Arazim Ltd. (Cyprus) in Nicosia. Both financial transactions in 2007 were revealed to the City Council recently, short before the struggle of ownership went to Bonn´s District Court. Arazim (Cyprus) Ltd. won the preliminary hearing and the process of completing the project came to a halt on a legal level, too.

Final result of unusual handling of a multiple problem:

On September 17th, 2009 City Council members of „The Greens“, headed by Doro Pass – Weingartz , filed a petition for resignation against Bärbel Dieckmann to the City Parliament. The „Blacks“ (CDU), headed by Benedikt Hauser, supported by several non party – council members  joined the petiton because of damaged  confidence and frustration of beeing misused.

All council members payed tribute to the merits of Dieckmann´s 15 years in office but a majority won the vote 34:24.  Some of them expressed, that „they once voted another mayoress“. Reason for withholding relevant information by the administration of  Dieckmann (SPD) in 2009 to City Council and to public might be the coincidence with city mayors and federal election, both won with slight margin by social democrat candidates.

Because of the more symbolic character of this „impeachement“, Bärbel Dieckmann,  short before retirement and meanwhile appointed with an honorary post at German „Welthungerhilfe“ (WHH) will stay in office until end of October 2009. Nevertheless Bonn´s City Council now wants to be informed complete  on time, in order to regain the role of the sovereign.

First act one week later: cancellation of the UNCC contract in order to regain control over building process and administrative procedures, which was fulfilled by September 30, 2009. Overall costs which might become a burden to Bonn´s already squeezed taxpayers:  about 200 Millions, if not more. Despite the fact, that the money went into a building which could be finished within several months, tremendous obstacles lie within the unresolved ownership between Honua (commercial registry) and Arazim (preliminary verdict).

According to expert´s opinion juridical obstacles and abandoned building site may cause cost within the two – digit million range, an expensive vision of Bärbel Dieckmann for the unasked taypayers of Bonn.

Thus the chase for new investors has already started, but the unresolved legal case between Honua and Arazim could last for years. The internal chase for the persons responsible has not started yet and the chase for money might turn out to become a cruel procedure:

as of now the City of Bonn involuntarily may change from an ally to a customer of the local savings bank, for a project which was started in November 3, 2006 too early, with too little investors money (Euro 10 Millions).

Detailed information on:

WCCB local background information by Hans Weingartz, Bonn,  (in German),  focussing on the  two partners of the PPP (Public Private Partnership) “ , the system“ SMI Hyundai and the „system“ Dieckmann

rhein:raum-online (in German), local online magazin with various articles on the complex WCCB case.

and:

WCCB on Wikipedia (in German)

Author:

Peter Riemann, Dipl.Ing./M.Arch. (USA), riemannarchitekten BDA,  Bonn at Wikipedia and zoominfo

Contact: info@riemann-architekten.de

P.S.                You may find more revealing articles (in German) about the „system“ Dieckmann on the blog:  Deine – meine – unsere BRD, starting on April 27, with a story of  the city facility manager Friedhelm Naujoks (SPD).

More or less at that time the investigation and publications about unlawful administrative procedures (the KAG – affaire) and cloudy proceedings (the WCCB affaire) under mayoress Bärbel Dieckmann (SPD) started in the WorldWideWeb as result of the cover – up manoeuvres of different adminstrative bodies in the „Stadthaus„.

Investigation proceedings on the „KAG“ case by the state prosecutor are pending since March 2009 (endangerment of school children and staff and thwarting a punishment by the legal administration office).

Already in the first Naujoks – post, parallels could be seen to the strange „non Prussian“ working methods of the admintrative body in Bonn. Continous critique, not only by the opposition, about the weakness ofmayoress Dieckmann in terms of leading the administration firmly and efficiently is evident.

It might be an explantion for the small catastrophies (mould and poison in schools!) and big disaster (Germany´s most expensive building ruin?) within her term of office, finally leading to the symbolic „impeachment“ attempt of the majority of the City Council of Bonn.