The former head of the CSU in Bavaria has appeared before the court to answer tax fraud charges. The ex-politician employed his wife falsely as an independent contractor, prosecutors say.
At one time, Georg Schmid was one of the most powerful politicians in Bavaria. The former state parliamentary chair of the Christian Social Union (CSU), sister party to Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU), had to resign in disgrace in 2013 amid objections to his perceived nepotism. On Monday, he stood before an Augsburg court to answer charges of tax evasion related to having employed his wife as a secretary.
The 61-year-old Schmid seemed to have lost his characteristic cheerfulness as he entered the courtroom to fight for what's left of his bank account and for his pension. He is accused of defrauding social security to the tune of 347, 772 euros ($390,431) and of withholding a further 135,000 euros of his income tax by listing his wife as an independent contractor when she was indeed employed by his constituency office in the town of Donauwörth in western Bavaria.
According to his lawyer Nikolaus Fackler, who called the charges "absurd" considering the Schmids had always filed their taxes together, Schmid has repaid the social security coffer 450,000 euros - damages plus interest.
Fackler questioned why neither the tax office nor the management officers of the Bavarian parliament raised concerns earlier if they suspected foul play. He said that Schmid's only "mistake" was not to properly inform the authorities of his unusual business model as he thought it was harmless.
Getrud Schmid, who has already had her day in court on aiding and abetting charges, was order to pay a 13,200 euro fine last week. Getrud was employed as her husband's secretary for 22 years, during which time her salary reached a high of 5,500 euros ($7,150) per month. At the same time, Schmid's own monthly salary got up to 24,145 euros a month, just 1,000 less than Chancellor Angela Merkel.
The prosecutors are trying for a penalty of eight months to two years probation, while the defense hopes for a suspended sentence of less than a year- if he gets a sentence of over 11 months, he will lose his considerable parliamentary pension.
Schmid was one of 79 Bavarian parliamentarians to employ either their spouses or children in their offices before the practice was banned in 2000. However, a loophole allowed for those with work contracts predating the ban to remain in their positions.
es/jil (AFP, dpa)