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20 Jan, 2022 09:06

Top German govt officials probed over suspected embezzlement

Vice chancellor, foreign minister and four others are under investigation by the Berlin public prosecutor’s office
Top German govt officials probed over suspected embezzlement

German vice chancellor and minister for economic affairs and climate action, Robert Habeck, and the country’s foreign minister, Annalena Baerbock, have found themselves at the center of an embezzlement investigation launched by the Berlin public prosecutor’s office. The probe focuses on the politicians’ activities back in 2020, before they were sworn in as German government officials, according to Der Spiegel magazine.

Habeck and Baerbock, along with the other four members of Germany’s Green party’s federal board, allegedly awarded themselves so-called ‘Covid bonuses’ to the tune of €1,500 ($1,700) per person. The sum was paid to all employees working at the party’s main office to offset possible difficulties associated with working from home. However, the party’s own auditors took issue with the bonus since according to the Greens’ own rules the payment should not have exceeded €300. Moreover, the auditors argued that any such decision should have involved the party’s treasurer and delegates from regional offices, which apparently was not the case.

In the wake of the Spiegel report, a spokesperson for the Berlin public prosecutor’s office confirmed on Wednesday evening that the probe was indeed launched on January 6.

All suspects except one are MPs in the Bundestag, which gives them immunity until any official charges are brought.

A spokesperson for the Green party stressed that the Federal board’s decision to hand out bonuses was seen as justified by “all those involved” at the time, however, the party’s leadership had since returned the money they had personally received. According to the Greens’ representative, the “board members and the federal office of the party are cooperating fully with the prosecutor’s office in order to clarify the matter in a swift and complete fashion.

It is worth noting that the Green party is expected to elect a new federal board next week, with neither Robert Habeck nor Annalena Baerbock running for a post any more.