LOS ANGELES (December 11, 2012) The porn industry’s Fabian Thylmann, managing partner of Manwin, the elusive Luxembourg-based adult entertainment company that was the largest single donor to the ‘No’ on Ballot Measure B campaign which sought—unsuccessfully—to block a Los Angeles County ballot measure that now requires condom use in adult film productions, was arrested last week in Belgium for suspicion of tax evasion in Germany. According to a news report on the AVN website, Thylmann “…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.” Thylmann remains in custody in Belgium awaiting extradition to Germany to answer to the charges.
In October, officials from AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) had separately complained to officials at the Federal Elections Commission (FEC) about what they believed was money laundering and illegal campaign donations made by Manwin to a United States election campaign made by a foreign company and/or foreign nationals. With over $150,000 in donations, Luxembourg-based Manwin appeared to be largest single donor to the ‘No on B’ campaign to defeat Los Angles County Ballot Measure B, the County of Los Angeles Safer Sex in the Adult Film Industry Act, which AHF spearheaded. Measure B passed with an overwhelming margin of the voter support—57% in favor to 43% opposed. The ballot measure now requires producers of adult films to obtain a public health permit from the County, follow all health and safety laws, including condom use, and pay a permit fee to cover enforcement of the law.
“From our reading of the campaign finance filings and our own research into the issue over the past few months it appears that a foreign porn cartel, Manwin, provided the major funding for the opposition campaign to our successful condoms in porn ballot measure, something that appears to be illegal,” said Michael Weinstein, president of AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) and one of the five named proponents of the ballot initiative. “Now, Manwin’s Thylmann is arrested in Belgium for tax evasion, the first cousin of money laundering. While we are happy that funds from Manwin did not seem to adversely affect the outcome of the Measure B election, we nevertheless urge the FEC to continue its investigation of our complaint against Manwin over what we believe to be tainted and illegal campaign contributions.”
After closely examining the legally required campaign finance reports filed with the Office of the Los Angeles County Registrar Recorder/County Clerk by opponents of Ballot Measure B – the ‘Recipient Committee Campaign Statements,’ – backers of the so-called ‘condoms in porn’ measure in Los Angeles County from AHF and elsewhere believe that the bulk of the funding behind opposition to the measure came from Manwin. The murky origin of the donated funds raises serious questions about money from a foreign porn cartel possibly being directed to an election campaign in the United States—an illegal act that constitutes a felony.
Over the course of the election campaign, the ‘No on Government Waste, No on Measure B-Major Funding by Manwin USA’ committee received the largest amount of money from a single donor, ‘Manwin USA,’ an arm of Manwin. According to its website, “Manwin is an international information technology firm, specializing in highly trafficked websites. The company creates, develops and manages some of the most recognized mainstream and adult entertainment brands in the world…Headquartered in Luxembourg with management offices in Hamburg, London, Los Angeles, Nicosia, and Montreal, the company employs over 900 people.”
Major funding in support of the measure was provided by AIDS Healthcare Foundation, which drafted the ballot language and introduced the measure, and has been securing support and endorsements for the ‘Yes on B’ campaign from medical and health groups like the L.A. County Medical Association and the California STD Controllers Association. Opposition to the measure comes primarily from pornographers.
Ballot Measure B was spearheaded by AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) and members of the advocacy group, FAIR (‘For Adult Industry Responsibility’), after as many as 22 HIV infections believed to be industry-related were reported in several outbreaks in Los Angeles since 2004, and amidst thousands of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) occurring annually among adult performers. The ballot measure also came on the heels of an outbreak of syphilis, a highly contagious but curable STD, that was roiling L.A.’s adult film industry and shut down the entire industry for several weeks early last summer.