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AfD head under fire for Swiss donations

November 12, 2018

Alice Weidel reportedly received €130,000 in campaign donations from Switzerland ahead of 2017 elections. The AfD co-leader's political rivals are now gunning for her resignation.

Alice Weidel
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/A. Weigel

The co-leader of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party received dubious donations for her campaign in the runup to German general elections in September last year, German media has reported.

Alice Weidel's district office near Lake Constance received a total of €130,000 ($150,000) in several tranches of mainly 9,000 Swiss franc amounts ($8,900, €7,900) between July and September 2017, German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and broadcasters NDR and WDR said, citing bank statements. The donations were made by a Swiss pharmaceutical company.

Read moreAfD: What you need to know about Germany's far-right party

Weidel, who was the party's lead candidate in the elections, said that she first learned of the "unsolicited" donations in September last year and decided to return the money after having doubts about its legality.

On Monday, she clarified that "the account the donation went to was the official account of the Lake Constance district office" and that the money "did not go to me directly." She ruled out what she called "personal consequences," hinting that she will not resign over the affair.

But the repayment did not take place until April 2018, according to the report, and the amount returned was some €6,000 less than the amount originally received.

'Illegal' donations

Germany allows political parties to receive funds from non-EU countries only if they come from German citizens.

The donation was "unquestionably an illegal party donation because it came from outside the EU," campaign financing expert Martin Morlok said.

Moreover, according to the German law, a party must immediately inform the Bundestag — the lower house of the German parliament — if it receives more than €50,000 from a single donor. The unidentified donor appears to have transferred the funds in smaller tranches to circumvent this rule.

AfD leading candidate Alice Weidel talks to DW

The Bundestag has not yet responded to the report.

The AfD, which has been repeatedly accused of bending campaign financing rules, faces a hefty financial penalty if the donation is deemed illegal. Anyone who accepts an illegal donation must transfer three times the amount to the Bundestag president, Morlok said.

Calls for resignation

The report sparked strong reactions from Germany's center-left parties. Green party politician Britta Hasselmann said the donation appeared to be dubious and demanded that all facts be put on the table.

Johannes Kahrs from the Social Democrats (SPD)  told German business newspaper Handelsblatt that the Bundestag should closely examine the entire affair.

"If the donation was illegal, Weidel must resign," he said.

ng,ap/msh (AFP, Reuters, dpa)

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