German conman and fugitive Jurgen Harksen is dead

Jürgen Harksen with his wife Jeanette. Picture: Allen Taylor.

Jürgen Harksen with his wife Jeanette. Picture: Allen Taylor.

Published Mar 25, 2024


Former fugitive and convicted German fraudster Jürgen Harksen has died.

The 63-year-old’s death was reported in the German publications Der Spiegel, Hamburger Abendblatt and Bild.

With a penchant for the bling lifestyle, Harksen ingratiated himself with local politicians and business personalities, scamming them out of millions while masquerading as an investment guru until his arrest in April 2002.

Wanted in Germany for over nine years until he was formally extradited, Harksen’s con was simple: He promised Hamburg’s millionaires that he could make them more on the stock markets.

And for that, they gave him millions, swayed by his persuasive sales pitch and a sophisticated scam in which white South Africans pretended to be American bankers to seal deals.

Bankers, lawyers, tax consultants and musicians were some of his victims who fell hook, line and sinker.

Even while he was on the run in South Africa, his gullible victims still sent him money in the hope that it could turn into a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow.

In Germany, the extent of his scam is estimated to have cost investors and the German tax authorities R3.6 billion at the time.

Having been resident in South Africa for nearly 10 years, most of it in Cape Town, Harksen bought a mansion in Constantia and his wife opened a luxury boutique in Burg Street while on the run from German prosecutors.

Despite being a fugitive from German justice, Harksen had no intention to live in obscurity.

In fact he revelled in the limelight, granting interviews to German media from a hotel in Cape Town and hobnobbing with former Cape Town mayor Gerald Morkel and alleged Italian Mafia boss Vito Palazzolo.

Harksen even donated R500 000 in cash to the Democratic Alliance after becoming acquainted with Morkel and former Western Cape Finance MEC Leon Markovitz.

Following the Desai Commission of Inquiry which probed Harksen’s donation to the DA, Morkel resigned as Cape Town mayor.

With the net closing in on him from liquidators and his luxury Constantia mansion sold for close to R10 million at the time in 2002, Harksen was eventually extradited back to Germany where he was sentenced to 81 months in prison.