A politician from Chancellor Merkel's CDU allegedly accepted illegal donations while CDU treasurer in his home state. The donations were allegedly made by a former secret agent who has been convicted of tax evasion.
Peter Bleser, a lawmaker with Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU), had his parliamentary immunity lifted on Wednesday, as prosecutors launched an investigation against him for suspected breach of trust and party financing laws.
As part of the probe against Bleser, authorities searched the CDU's headquarters in Berlin and Mainz, the capital of Bleser's home state of Rhineland-Palatinate. It remained unclear, however, whether documents and computers had been seized.
According to investigators, Bleser is alleged to have accepted some €56,000 ($66,000) in illegal donations from 2004 to 2015, first as the chairman of the CDU's district association in Cochem-Zell and then as the party's treasurer in Rhineland-Palatinate. The donations are believed to have come from former secret agent Werner Mauss, who in October was handed a two-year suspended sentence for tax evasion to the tune of €50 million.
According to the public prosecutor's office, the donations appeared as if they had been transferred from a law firm although it should have been evident that the money had only been passed on to the firm by a third party.
Given the dubious source of the money, it should have never entered the CDU's coffers. According to the law governing political parties in Germany, donations amounting to more than €500 that are not ascertainable or are recognizably from an unnamed third party may not be accepted.
The CDU's general secretary for Rhineland-Palatinate, Patrick Schnieder, said the accusations of embezzlement against Bleser had come as a "surprise," but stressed that the party would cooperate with authorities "fully" and in the interest of "full clarification" of what had gone on.
Bleser is currently serving as parliamentary state secretary at the Federal Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection, under Minister Christian Schmidt.
dm/kms (dpa, AP, Reuters)