Updated: 27/09/16 : 06:02:31
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World :: 'German James Bond' spy charged with tax evasion

A former top spy in Germany has gone on trial on charges of tax evasion.

Werner Mauss, nicknamed the "German James Bond", is accused of hiding more than 15m ($17m, 13m) in offshore accounts.

He denies any wrongdoing and says the accounts were set up by intelligence agencies to fund secret operations.

Mr Mauss, 76, says on his website that as a spy he stopped a Mafia attempt to poison Pope Benedict and freed hostages held captive by Colombian rebels.

He also says he smashed more than 100 criminal groups.

Now prosecutors accuse Mr Mauss of placing large sums of undeclared funds in offshore accounts, including in the Bahamas.

The retired agent appeared in court wearing a navy parka with the hood pulled over his head.

He declined to make a statement on the first day of the trial.

His lawyers say he is unable to mount "a proper defence" because he is still bound by confidentiality agreements linked to his decades of undercover work.

Mr Mauss used more than 30 aliases, the Sueddeutsche Zeitung reports.

The court in Bochum, in the state of North Rhine Westphalia, has charged him under four of them, Werner Mauss, Dieter Koch, Claus Moellner, and Richard Nelson.

If found guilty, he could be jailed to up to 10 years in jail.