Friday, March 10, 2006


It's all in a photo

Meinolf Lüdenbach, the man behind a global scam industry
Image courtesy of the Daily Mirror

As this is a weblog I guess it should not be a simple extension of stopECG, perhaps there is space for analysis of events or even occasionally those strange personal thoughts that crop up in the middle of the hectic moments.

It is not always the newsworthy moments like the ECG being fined or the announcement that Novachannel had been raided by the police that stick in your memory, there are other turning points. And so it was that to finally see an image of Meinolf Lüdenbach is the moment that sticks out from an event packed period during February 2006.

I have known the name Lüdenbach for a considerable time and various newspaper investigations last year uncovered that he is absolutely pivotal to this whole horrid industry. Knowing that focused the campaign, no longer were these so called guides a nebulous multi-headed beast rising from several countries, rather we faced was a single ugly monster!

There is a legal significance to the common ownership, it would perhaps, in a moment of extreme forgiveness be possible to argue that a single guide was just poor at formulating a reasonable contract. That the ECG's staff, were somehow just too stupid to comprehend that after all the legal rulings what was needed was a wholesale redesign of their forms.

As the whole picture becomes apparent it is harder to be forgiving. Here are several near identical guides, each mailing its forms almost exclusively across borders and each using the same sort of contract, even though the vast majority of their so-called customers dispute the bills! Then there are the debt collection companies, bullying, threatening, and claiming they will take court action.. Because without all these threats most people would not pay a bean, and yes, these debt collection companies appear to fall within the same common ownership.

Am I painting a picture here, of a monster, someone who could conceive such a scam and then mercilessly execute it against thousands of individuals for no greater goal than his own self enrichment? Having a name allows you to build a bogeyman, in your mind, especially when that name is so unusual, a name that would have been perfect for a cartoon baddie! So when I first saw the Daily Mirror's picture it was bound to be a seminal moment, there he was Meinolf Lüdenbach and how surprisingly human he looked!

More than that, looming over the camera, chandelier in the background, tonsils in full view, quite frankly a prat! Does that make him any less of a monster? Momentarily I guess it did, you can relate to a human face, especially a buffoon, you can empathize with it ever so slightly more than you can empathize with a name. Please don't think I am going soft here, this guide industry is despicable.

We are brought up to fear spooks, monsters, diseases and ugly creatures that inhabit far corners of the globe, we are not as a rule taught or encouraged to fear or resent our fellow human beings, so there is always a fascination with the normal looking faces behind the acts we despise.

I do not know how Lüdenbach sleeps at night, but then I have corresponded with many of his unwilling 'customers' and I know how little they are sleeping. I live in hope that he might one day comprehend the misery his actions cause, close the guides and call off the debt collectors. Perhaps I am going soft after all, for we all know deep down that the human visage can hide much greater evil than any of those darkened corners of the globe.

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