Manwin Chief Fabian Thylmann Arrested in Belgium - UPDATE

BRUSSELS, Belgium—Fabian Thylmann, managing partner of international adult conglomerate Manwin, has been taken into custody by Belgian officials on an arrest warrant issued by a German court on suspicion of tax evasion. Contrary to some news reports, AVN has learned that Thylmann was arrested late last week, reportedly at the Belgian airport.

According to German daily Die Welt (The World), police raided Manwin's Hamburg offices last Tuesday as part of an ongoing probe precipitated in part by the newspaper's own investigation into the company. The several dozen officers who conducted the raid seized a number of computers and documents. The same day, officers in Belgium searched Thylmann's own residence there.

Die Welt published a series of articles on Manwin in its Sunday edition during September that among other things examined irregularities in the company's structure, which in turn likely contributed to the government's suspicion of tax evasion.

The warrant for Thylmann's arrest was issued by the District Court of Cologne, Germany. A spokeman for the prosecutor said that Thylmann's projected extradition to Cologne is open-ended at this point, and could not disclose whether there are other suspects in the investigation.

Manwin owns porn powerhouses including Brazzers, Digital Playground, Reality Kings, YouPorn and PornHub, as well as manages Playboy's web and broadcast properties. Its various arms are registered in Luxembourg, Germany, Canada, Cyprus, USA and Ireland.  

German news outlet is reporting that Thylmann remains in custody, awaiting extradition to Germany.

AVN has contacted Manwin for comment, but did not hear back by post time.

UPDATE 12/14 is reporting that Manwin managing partner Fabian Thylmann has been successfully extradited to Germany following his arrest last week in Belgium, and that he has been brought before a judge to hear the charges against him, a Cologne prosecutor said. He reportedly remains in custody.

UPDATE 12/16

Welt am Sonntag is reporting that "as early as Monday" German bank Commerzbank may sever its relationship with Manwin managing partner Fabian Thylmann, who remains in custody in Germany after being extradited from Belgium following his arrest earlier this month on suspicion of tax evasion. 

According to The Local, which offers German news in English, "Customers of German amateur pornography portal MyDirtyHobby, one of Thylmann's various s ex portals, have for some time paid fees into an account held with the Hamburg branch of Commerzbank, according to the report.

"The state prosecutor in Cologne is currently looking into who actually runs the amateur porn site," the article continued. "Thylmann claims a Cypriot subsidiary is responsible, but evidence has emerged suggesting Hamburg company Manwin Germany is behind it."

The report also claims that bank employees visited Manwin's Hamburg offices "several times," and that "the investigation into Thylmann's alleged dodgy dealings has prompted a few red faces at Commerzbank, which is keen to cut off all business relations with him as soon as possible in an attempt to save the bank from reputation damage,"

The Local added, "Rules state that banks are allowed to terminate contracts without notice for 'reasons of reputation.'"

UPDATE 12/20

The German paper Die Welt has reported that it prevailed yesterday in a legal proceeding brought by Manwin to prevent the publication of "a critical story in the newspaper about his extensive business network, the Internet entrepreneur and questionable business practices." As of today, the complete article is now available online after 18 passages the paper had excised from the story until the court could rule were replaced. An English translation of the article is available here.

UPDATE 12/21

Die Welt is reporting that Thylmann has been released from pre-trial detention in Germany.

"Mr Thylmann has deposited a security deposit in the double-digit million range and committed himself to strict registration requirements," said Ulrich Bremer, a spokesperson for the prosecutors office in Cologne.

The paper adds that he decision to release the Manwin head was made Thursday evening, and that if Thylmann, who is married with two children, decides to return to his home in Belgium in the period before a possible trial on charges reportedly related to tax evasion, he will have to surrender his passport.

"The public prosecutor's office and the court believe that the exclusive purpose of pre-trial detention, namely the implementation of ordered criminal proceedings against the accused... has been achieved," added Bremer (with help from Bing translator).