Neo-Nazi Tino Brandt to go on trial for fraud | News | DW | 23.02.2018

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Neo-Nazi Tino Brandt to go on trial for fraud

The ex-informant, currently in jail for sexually abusing minors, will face trial for fraud in early April. Brandt was a key figure in the German neo-Nazi scene and linked to a series of racially motivated murders.

Tino Brandt, a life-long neo-Nazi and an intelligence service informant currently serving a five-and-a-half-year prison sentence for the sexual abuse of minors, is set to go on trial again in April. Brandt and 13 others are accused of large-scale fraud and attempted fraud amounting to more than €1 million ($1.23 million).

The trial will take place in the eastern German state of Thuringia, where Brandt worked for years as a neo-Nazi activist and, at age 19, became an informant for Germany's domestic intelligence service, officially called The Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution. His role as an informant stretched from 1994 until 2001.

Read more: Opinion: An affront to the constitution

A shady career

Brandt began his career as state chairman of the far-right National Democratic Party of Germany (NPD). He later founded the extremist Thuringia Home Protection group in the 1990s. The group was closely linked to the National Socialist Underground (NSU), which later became infamous for orchestrating a series of murders targeting foreign-born immigrants and eventually a German police officer. 

Brandt became publicly known in Germany when his activity as an undercover informant was revealed in 2001, and later as a witness in the high-profile and long-running trial of Beate Zschäpe for her involvement in what have become known as the NSU murders.

Read more: Neo-Nazi NSU murder report shows Angela Merkel's 'broken promises'

Beate Zschäpe at the NSU trial

Tino Brandt attained notoriety at the so-called NSU trial of Beate Zschäpe (above) after testifying on his role as a government informant in connection to a series of racially motivated murders.

Shocking revelations

Brandt's testimony caused outrage in Germany when the full scope of his undercover activity came to light. For years, he had received taxpayer money (in excess of €100,000) from authorities, much of which he claims to have given to the NSU, whom government agents had encouraged him to befriend. 

He was also reimbursed for travel costs and received telephones, computers and other goods. Moreover, the Thruingia state branch of the domestic intelligence agency gave Brandt money to acquire fake passports for the so-called NSU trio of Uwe Böhnhardt, Uwe Mundlos and Beate Zschäpe when they went underground in 1998.

Brandt was instrumental in convincing a sponsor of the right-wing publisher Nation Europe, for whom Brandt also worked, to purchase a large piece of land in Thuringia that was later used by neo-Nazis for target practice. Presented with photographs from such target practice sessions, witnesses identified Brandt alongside Böhnhardt, who, along with Mundlos, is accused of having carried out the NSU murders.

Read more: Neo-Nazism: What is Germany's NSU terror trial?

NSU murder victim

Brandt claims he passed along government payments to the trio that perpetrated the murders of the above 10 people between 2000 and 2006.

A trail of blood

His testimony showed that Thuringia's Office for the Protection of the Constitution had urged him to establish relationships with NSU members and their network of accomplices. That network was responsible for hiding the location of the trio as well as aiding them on their murder spree. Revelations showing law enforcement's indirect links to the NSU shocked Germany as they emerged in the aftermath of the group being uncovered. 

The victims were small-business owners of Turkish and Greek descent as well as one German police officer — for years German authorities incorrectly theorized that they were part of an organized crime turf war between Turkish and Greek gangs. Uwe Böhnhardt and Uwe Mundlos committed suicide before they could be apprehended, after botching a robbery and thereby leading police to their hideout, where they found the murdered police officer's service weapon. The trial against Beate Zschäpe is ongoing.

The current case against Brandt, brought by state prosecutors in the eastern German city of Gera, charges him and 13 others of having conducted large-scale insurance fraud. The charges stem from information gathered by authorities in raids conducted on houses and offices in Rudolstadt in Thuringia and Leipzig in neighboring Saxony. A number of weapons were also discovered during the raids. The initial hearing is set for April 11.

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