Irregularities continue to turn up in the financial records of Germany's far-right National Democratic Party. The party has voluntarily turned its records over to the state -- but looming fines aren't its only worry.
The NPD may have to empty its pockets
Bookkeeping errors were made in 2006, NPD treasurer Stefan Koester admitted on Thursday, Feb. 19. The previously reported debt of "several hundred thousand euros" was too low, but the party's true financial losses for that year couldn't be determined because many documents were missing, he added.
According to a report by the online edition of the German newsmagazine Spiegel, the NPD's 2007 accounts, just recently submitted to the German parliament, contain additional discrepancies totaling nearly 900,000 euros ($1.13 million).
If these are confirmed, the debt-ridden party could be saddled with fines of up to 1.8 million euros.
The NPD is currently under observation by the German Office for the Protection of the Constitution. As an official political party, it receives government funding, though restrictions have been placed on the federal money until the financial situation is cleared up.
In-fighting fractures party
Calls for a ban on the NPD have so far been rejected
Also on Thursday, the ongoing power struggle within the right-wing party threatened to escalate when Andreas Molau, deputy party leader in the state of Lower Saxony, withdrew his bid to challenge incumbent Udo Voigt for the position of national party leader at next month's convention.
Molau attributed his decision to what he called a slander campaign against him by Voigt and deputy NPD leader Juergen Rieger. He accused Voigt of being a "compliant puppet of the stock market speculator Rieger."
Voigt's popularity had suffered in the wake of a donation scandal in which former party treasurer Erwin Kemna was charged in 2008 with embezzling over 700,000 euros. The latter is currently serving a 32-month prison sentence.
"A party leader who doesn't notice that six-figure sums are disappearing from the party's coffers" shouldn't be leading the party, Molau said of Voigt, implicating him in the donation scandal.
Molau's surprise bid in December to run for the position of national party leader led to a bitter war of words with the current leadership, with Rieger accusing Molau of being "one-eighth Jewish," among other things.
Politically critical time
The NPD's troubles come during a politically pivotal year for the country, with national elections scheduled for September. State elections will also be held in four states, including the NPD powerbases of Saxony, Thuringia and Brandenburg in the former East.
However, despite the party's woes the far-right extremist scene in Germany doesn't seem to be losing support. According to a report issued earlier this week by the Interior Ministry, the number of extreme right-wing crimes in Germany rose 28 percent in 2008 over the previous year, with 13,985 incidents. Most of these were related to propaganda offenses, such as displaying banned neo-Nazi symbols.
The number of violent offenses in 2008 was recorded at 735, up from 642 in 2007.
The state-owned Chinese chemicals group has received a green light from the European Commission to take over Italian tire maker Pirelli. The acquisition could help the iconic tire brand gain more traction in Asia.
Britain will increase funding to stop migrants who camp near the French port of Calais before trying to cross the English Channel. The amount of money remains under discussion.
The founder of France's far-right National Front should be reinstated to the party, said a local court. Jean-Marie Le Pen was suspended by his daughter Marine following a refusal to back down from controversial rhetoric.