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Germany

Embezzled East German millions expected to be repaid this year

Germany's six eastern, formerly communist states are expecting to be the recipients this year of 230 million euros being held in Swiss and Austrian banks after the cash was embezzled out of the former East Germany.

SED logo

The ruling political party in former East Germany, SED, hid hundreds of millions in foreign accounts

More than 200 million euros in hidden funds from the former communist East German government is expected to be paid back this year, with the agency tasked with administering the money saying it was likely to be the last batch uncovered.

The amount is to be handed over to Germany's six eastern states. Billions of euros in smuggled funds have already been repaid to Germany.

The agency tasked with handling the returned money, the BvS, said the latest batch of hidden funds, which totaled approximately 230 million euros ($297 million), had been siphoned out of the German Democratic Republic (GDR) by the former ruling party, the SED.

The funds were deposited in Swiss and Austrian banks, where they sat until last year, when a Zurich court ordered Unicreditbank Austria to pay the money to the BvS. However, due to an appeal, the 230 million euros has still not been released.

Although it is expected that the latest batch will be the last to surface out of the post-war years, a BvS spokesperson said in an e-mail to Deutsche Welle on Friday that "no one knows how much money was embezzled," adding that the BvS would not speculate on any further hidden sums.

The spokesperson said the work of the BvS regarding the most recently discovered funds was now at an end, but that the agency would still "follow up any leads regarding further embezzled [SED] money."

Hopes high

Left party leader Klaus Ernst

Left party leaders insist they're not hiding any funds

Parliamentarian Thorsten Herbst from the Free Democrats (FDP) in the eastern state of Saxony expects that the Austrian and Swiss banks would release the funds this year.

"The prospect of getting a decision in favor of the East German states is pretty good, and we hope to get the money," he said.

Herbst said the successor parties to the Communist SED, such as the Left party, which has seats in 13 of Germany's 16 state parliaments, were less than helpful in the search for the stashed millions.

"Nobody knows exactly how much money there is, especially in foreign back accounts," he said. "It was pretty difficult with the SED, the former Communist Party, and all the successors, to find all the money and get from them some kind of transparency.

"So from today's point of view, this could be the last money we could get, but nobody knows for sure if this really is the last part of the money or if there is something hidden. We do not know."

Herbst said the eastern states, which were incorporated into western Germany in 1990, should use the money to rebuild infrastructure and museums to shed light on the states' communist past.

"This money [should] go somewhere to a museum which shows how life was before the fall of the Berlin Wall, and to show people here, especially young people, how it was before and what luck we have that we now live in a democracy," he said.

Author: Darren Mara, Wilhelmina Lyffyt
Editor: Martin Kuebler

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