German car club execs used rescue helicopter for business trips

BERLIN Fri Jan 24, 2014 8:51am EST

BERLIN Jan 24 (Reuters) - Germany's ADAC car club acknowledged on Friday that senior managers had used its rescue helicopters for business trips, spelling more embarrassment for the group after it admitted falsifying results of its annual car award earlier this month.

With over 18 million members, ADAC has had a reputation as a bastion of integrity in car-obsessed Germany, where it provides the biggest breakdown service and its test reports are followed closely.

But the latest revelations have severely damaged its credibility, forcing out its communications director.

An ADAC spokesman told Reuters on Friday that its president, Peter Meyer, and other executives were allowed to use reserve helicopters in exceptional cases, confirming local media reports.

He said the club's top management had taken around 30 such flights in the last 10 years and stressed that the helicopters were only used for this purpose when there was no other way to get to appointments on time.

"It was certainly not an everyday occurrence," Garrels said, adding the flights were paid for "completely and totally transparently".

A report in German news magazine Stern had suggested ADAC's air rescue helicopters were financed by federal funds, health insurance contributions, club members and donations.

But the spokesman said no public funds had been used to pay for the flights, which the ADAC Luftrettung GmbH - ADAC's air rescue subsidiary - invoiced to the ADAC.

The spokesman said he could not say how much the flights cost but added that using it own machines was cheaper than using rented helicopters.

ADAC describes air rescue as one of its core services and its subsidiary has 51 helicopters, of which 15 are reserve machines, Garrels said.

He added that the reserve machines are lent to other air rescue organisations and used at large sporting events in exchange for a fee.

The club shocked Germans earlier this month by admitting it had falsified results of its coveted "Yellow Angel" award for Germany's favourite car this year. (Reporting by Irene Preisinger; Writing by Michelle Martin; Editing by Noah Barkin and Sophie hares)

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