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German prosecutor's office to investigate reports of drywall firm Knauf's involvement in reconstruction of Russian-occupied Mariupol

The prosecutor's office in the German city of Würzburg has launched an investigation into Knauf, a building materials manufacturer, following an investigation by the ARD television network published in early April. The investigation claimed that materials from Knauf’s Russian subsidiaries and another German company, WKB Systems, were used in the reconstruction of occupied Mariupol. At the time, the company's press office said it had no contracts to supply its products directly to consumers and processors in Russia.

Tobias Kostuch, a spokesman for Würzburg’s public prosecutor's office, told Russian state-owned news agency RIA Novosti:

“It is important to note that the initial suspicion of a crime necessary to initiate an investigation is not present at this time. Rather, it serves to clarify whether such an initial suspicion exists at all.”

Kostuch did not specify whether the same investigation is taking place with regard to WKB Systems.

A report by Merkur citing a company press release confirmed that Knauf, well-known for products such as drywall, gypsum boards, plaster, and insulation, now intends to withdraw from its business in Russia, transferring its subsidiaries in the country over to local management.

“The company’s desire [is] to transfer the entire business in Russia, including raw material extraction, production and sales, to local management in order to preserve the jobs of its more than 4,000 employees in the future,” read the press release.

The transaction requires the approval of the Russian authorities.

In November 2023, Ukraine designated Knauf as an “international sponsor of war.” Ukraine's National Agency on Corruption Prevention (NACP) claimed that the building materials manufacturer paid about $117m to the Russian budget in 2022 alone. The agency noted that the firm was “the largest German investor in the Russian construction industry” and had “actively helped the Russian military mobilize its employees.”

Knauf's ties with the Russian authorities go back even further.

Nikolaus Knauf, the founder's son and a major shareholder in the company, was awarded the Order of Friendship by Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2006 for his contribution to the development of relations between Russia and Germany.

Russia appointed him as head of an honorary consulate in Nuremberg in 1999 — a role Knauf gave up in March 2022 following local protests.

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