This is the article I was talking about
article from Tages-Anzeiger 30 July 2003 (translated with help of Babelfish)
THE STRANGE PLAY NEXT TO THE TENNIS COURT
Patty Schnyder and Rainer Hofmann have made headlines for years. The liaison of the tennis star with the million-cheat is a mystery. What is going on with Patty Schnyder?
by Hugo Stamm
The two offer top material for a film script. Or a family tragedy. The elements are also reminiscent of a classical drama: the famous, attractive young woman, the villainous bad-guy, the intrigue with the family, and merciless fate. And everything under the strained eyes of a broad public.
It began in the autumn 1998 at a tennis training camp in Mallorca (Spain). The 20-year old professional player was preparing to to conquer the Top Ten by storm and was considered a supertalent. The media speculated even of an advance to the world ranking summit. Patty Schnyder felt the pressure of big expectations. Then she became seemingly spellbound by a certain Rainer Harnecker, a man who claimed to be a purveyor of alternative training and health methods. The 40-year-old unknown quantity accompanied the young tennis player for a short time to tournaments, starting in Australia. Harnecker was portrayed as a dubious healer, who was alienating Patty Schnyder from her familiar environment. And soon the two presented themselves as a love-pair.
Rainer vs. Rainer
Schnyder’s parents began making inquiries. The people they consulted, used the term “sect-captured” in connection with Harnecker over and over. It reminds one of the Scientology sect, said an informant. A member of a Zurich self-help group gave Iris Schnyder, the mother of Patty, the address of one Rainer Hofmann, saying he was a German private detective intensively concerned with the Scientology sect. The call from Bottmingen, the residence of the Schnyder family, put Hofmann immediately on the go. He took it upon himself itself to release Patty from the clutches of the "Charlatan.” For free. And (it turned out) with quick success.
What induced Rainer Hofmann to “selflessly" chase Rainer Harnecker through half of Europe and to “release” the tennis player from Harnecker’s clutches? Harnecker said back then, that Hofmann had bellowed in his face at their first meeting: "I am getting the Schnyder girl." But nobody believed the healer, who was a laughingstock for telling Patty to drink liters of orange juice and for throwing her balls by hand in training.
But, soon the "rescuer" was himself reaching for the soul of the tennis princess, and the curtain for the next act came up. “Rainer the Second” quickly lured his victim into his dark, sinister world and then rolled an enormous stone in front of the entrance. It would be so located at least in the film script. But how does real life write the story? It is not only the sports world that puzzles over it.
Patty and the ten years older Rainer Hofmann were noticeable on the tennis tour for being a mismatch. Love comes down sometimes where one would never expect it, said many in the beginning. A “folly of two,” is hardly uncommon among the rich and famous. Schnyder’s parents loudly opposed the relationship, but they were run over by the wheels of public opinion. “That’s tennis parents for you,” it was said about them. “They have a problem letting go.” Meanwhile Schnyder’s sponsors reacted skeptically to the new relationship. By the end of 1999 all of Patty’s lucrative contracts had been cut short.
Soon a struggle for power was raging between Rainer Hofmann and the parents of the tennis star. “Does nobody see that Hofmann is a criminal, and Patty is being ruined?” they asked desperately. Hofmann found an ally in "SonntagsBlick" [one of the biggest Swiss Sunday newspapers] and fed the newspaper explosive stories over the family controversy.
And the score was clearly distributed: 6-0 and 6-0 in mixed doubles against Patty’s parents. The high point of the campaign was an interview on 10 February 2002, in which Patty Schnyder said about her parents: "you are like the Taliban." Hofmann isolated Patty from her environment in a similar way as Harnecker had done previously. She soon had no more friends and became ever lonelier. That is the price of the liberty, says the tennis player today. She sees nothing unusual about it. The cause of the isolation, she blames on the "bad" media and “terroristic” parents. An unbelievable slander campaign is under way, a crusade. It is a conspriacy against Hofmann. The detective and his tennis star against the rest of the world. It is logical, that one cannot be free and also at the same time have friends, believes Patty Schnyder.
Schnyder’s parents got to know the tactics of Hofmann rapidly, and tried to make it clear for their daughter who she was getting mixed up with. They believed that Patty’s sense of self-worth had been decimated after the disaster with “Rainer the First.” Meanwhile, “Rainer the Second” was the ideal candidate take Harnecker’s place and prolong the inglorious history that had started with the orange-juice guru. After intensive research, Patty’s parents were convinced that, with a strong service and precise returns, they could put Rainer Hofmann on the defensive. They considered Hofmann to be a criminal who was exploiting Patty materially, but above all, exploiting her as a human being. But everything just bounced off Patty - even when the indictment came down from Frankfurt public prosecutor Gero Schomberg: charges of million-level fraud, and repeated suppression and falsification of documents. Among other things Hofmann represented himself, according to the public prosecutor, as an attorney, which Hofmann however denies. Patty Schnyder was easily pacified by the prayer-like explanations and excuses of Hofmann, as several witnesses from the two’s support team explained.
She believed the story of her boyfriend/bodyguard, who portrayed the charges as misunderstandings, and pushed the blame onto the shoes of other, partially invented persons. Sometimes in their despair, Patty’s parents sought refuge with a strong vocabulary. Hofmann used this to further incite Patty against her parents. "The worst part is that in all these years we could never even speak in peace with Patty,” says her mother. Hofmann won his legal contest against Patty’s parents all the way down the line. By a legal judgement, the Schnyders were forbidden to take up contact with their daughter ever again.
For his part, Hofmann has not shied away from any means whatsoever to discredit the parents of Patty Schnyder. On the InterNet he published tasteless remarks regarding the father of Patty Schnyder [hardcore Abzocker], accompanied with the diseased, disfigured head of a black one. The web page of the name of Patty Schnyder was registered. When father Schnyder proceeded legally against him for this, Hofmann changed the caption from “Willy” (the first name of the father) to "Big Harry,” but left the rest of the content remaining. The charge against Hofmann for slander against father Willy Schnyder was stopped on 17 June 2003.
However, a complaint by Willy Schnyder against Hofmann and Hofmann’s mother as the owner of his detective agency had partial success. The detective had submitted an account of expenses of approximately 50,000 Francs for the pursuit of Rainer Harnecker. It turned out that the calculation contained expenses of "coworkers", of whom there were none. Hofmann and his mother were ordered to repay Willy Schnyder 5500 Francs.
The methods of Hofmann in dealing with opponents, have also been felt by journalists who do not submit to his conditions. There is almost no information available about Patty Schnyder any more. The whole Tamedia group, (to which “Tages-Anzeiger” belongs), is under an interview prohibition. If tennis reporters dare nevertheless occasionally to write a critical sentence about Hofmann or Patty Schnyder, the menace of a lawsuit follows immediately on their heels. Originally Hofmann himself was personally responsible for the bullying, or he sent his mother. Today he lets his attorney deal with it.
The lawyer said, regarding the inquiries for this article: The list of questions "is obviously at a level of despicableness and maliciousness, that cannot be over-stated.” Also the mother of Hofmann does not let anything come against the honor of her son. She is ready to travel, whenever she believes her Rainer must be defended. If she does not have success on the telephone, she has been known to show up personally at the newspaper and demand a meeting with the president of the board. At Rainer Hofmann’s fraud trial in Frankfurt, she demanded that the judge remove all journalists and visitors from the courtroom.
Another victim: The ex-wife
Perhaps the ex-wife of Rainer Hofmann could give Patty Schnyder an idea about the soul of her fiance. Hofmann also isolated this woman from her environment, as she explains. Friends had warned her in vain of "going into the Blender.” In retrospect she says she cannot understand, how it all happened to her. Hofmann made her, without her knowledge, the accomplice of his million-fraud. He falsified her signature or slid it into the wrong location. He told her his own name could not appear on the documents, because he worked for the German Federal Intelligence Agency. In this way Hofmann established the names of the companies, through which he completed the fraud.
When the public prosecutor charged her with involvement in the million-fraud of her husband, her world fell apart. It was just at that time however, that Hofmann took off and slipped into the warm nest of Patty Schnyder. Soon thereafter Hofmann's ex-wife realized that she was pregnant. She knew nothing yet about the relationship of her husband with Patty Schnyder. Hofmann maintained that he could not possibly be the father. At the time in question he was not even in Germany at all, he said. A paternity test, however, cleared up the question, and Hofmann began paying alimony only after a further legal case. The court recognized rapidly that the wife was a victim of her husband, and acquitted her. She hopes that history doesn’t end up repeating itself, she said. She also is still arguing four years after the separation still about the alimony support payments, so far in vain. Because Hofmann lives in Switzerland - he received a foreigner’s residence grant in the canton Schwyz with Patty Schnyder, it is harder to sue him, said the attorney of his ex-wife.
Despite all the storms, Patty Schnyder has remained faithful to Rainer Hofmann. In February 2002 she told the SonntagsBlick newspaper: "I know from the documents that Rainer is not criminal. All the charges will crumble.” But in November 20002 her fiance put down a full confession in court. For tactical reasons, Hofmann told anyone who would listen. Today, the lawyer for Schnyder and Hofmann says “A certain set of reproaches was granted, in order to shorten the trial in the interest of of Ms. Schnyder.” Trial observers saw it differently. The burden of proof was crushing. With the confession however, Hofmann successfully reduced his term of punishment.
Who paid the debts?
Frankfurt public prosecutor Gero Schomberg called Rainer Hofmann a high-level con-man. The judge said his criminal energy was “not small.” But Patty continued to believe the version of her fiance. And she probably saved him from having to exchange his jet-set life on the tennis circuit for a prison cell. The judge suspended the term of imprisonment of 18 months, because Rainer Hofmann had already re-imbursed a large part of the debts. The trial visitors perked up their ears. Does the money come from Patty Schnyder’s account? Patty Schnyder and Rainer Hofmann said through their lawyer: “The fact is that Ms. Schnyder settled or settles no debts of Mr. Hofmann, in particular not the so-called Telekom debts." Is that right? Bank orders obtained by Tages-Anzeiger prove that several transfers flowed directly from Patty Schnyder’s bank account to Telekom, the firm which Rainer Hofmann had defrauded of 900,000 francs. Schnyder has only helped out, “with fees or by twice putting forward smaller amounts.” These "smaller amounts" nevertheless constitute nearly 100,000 francs.
Schnyder also did not find anything unusual about the idea of selling her multi-family house in Basel. She had bought it 1998, when the prize money was flowing plentifully, on advice from her father, for about 2 million francs. Approximately one year ago she sold the real estate “neck over head” - at a time, when the money was hardly to be more profitably invested elsewhere. And in a moment, in which Hofmann, who was said to be deeply involved the sale negotiations, urgently needed money. Patty Schnyder said through her lawyer that the real estate was sold because it yielded too little rent, a justification which the buyer of the property does not share. The attorney of the player said the sale of the real estate did not have to do anything with the alleged debts of Hofmann.
The Schnyder/Hofmann tennis enterprise should now have a stout war chest following the sale of the house. But Schnyder’s most recent coach, Hubert Choudury, who was dismissed in March despite a successful run, has his doubts. Choudury has engaged a lawyer, in order to obtain outstanding wages. The coach said he never even received a notice of dimissal. Patty Schnyder’s lawyer once again categorically disagrees. The coach made unauthorized demands, the lawyer said.
Just a “Folly of Two?”
So is it all just a “Folly of Two,” a remarkable, crazy love-story? A passion that makes the beholder blind? Did Patty give the million to her fiance – even if only for tactical reasons – from her heart, in order to save him from prison? One almost wishes it were so. A “Romeo and Juliet” in the modern tennis world.
But this seems not to be the case. Witnesses from the tennis tour and the support team of Patty Schnyder dismiss it out of hand, saying that the two have never functioned as a love-pair, from the present time all the way back to the beginning of their liaison. So what then is the cement, which binds them together? Hofmann can be very doting, he is available for Patty around the clock, is obviously above all a paternal friend. In the storm of the tennis life he is for her supposedly the only reliable asset. The last ally. Patty Schnyder and Rainer Hofmann form a true community of fate.
author: Hugo Stamm advised parents of Patty Schnyder in 1998/99 as a sect specialist, when Patty Schnyder was associated with Rainer Harnecker.