AfD donor scandal: Weidel under official investigation

German prosecutors have opened a formal probe into AfD leader Alice Weidel over alleged election campaign donations from Switzerland. It is illegal for German parties to receive contributions from non-EU countries.

Alice Weidel, the parliamentary group leader of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, is being formally investigated for violating campaign finance laws, the public prosecutor's office in the southern city of Konstanz announced Tuesday.

Politics | 15.11.2018

The AfD branch in Lake Constance is accused of receiving large sums of money from a Swiss company in the leadup to Germany's 2017 general election. The vote saw the AfD become the largest opposition party in the Bundestag.

The donations from abroad, paid in 18 tranches, reportedly amounted to more than €132,000 ($150,000).

The prosecutor said the probe would target Weidel and three other AfD officials in her Lake Constance constituency.

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In a meeting on Friday, the AfD's federal executive backed Weidel and dismissed the allegations against her as baseless.

Under Germany's strict party donation laws, it is illegal to accept campaign contributions from states outside the European Union. Parties that break that rule face a financial penalty of three times the amount received.

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Weidel said she returned the money to the Swiss donor after having doubts about its legality. But the repayment reportedly only took place in April 2018, and was around €8,000 less than the initial donation.

Some of the money was reportedly spent on social media advertising and legal fees during the election campaign.

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Alexander Gauland

Co-chairman Alexander Gauland said the German national soccer team's defender Jerome Boateng might be appreciated for his performance on the pitch - but people would not want "someone like Boateng as a neighbor." He also argued Germany should close its borders and said of an image showing a drowned refugee child: "We can't be blackmailed by children's eyes."

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Alice Weidel generally plays the role of "voice of reason" for the far-right populists, but she, too, is hardly immune to verbal miscues. Welt newspaper, for instance, published a 2013 memo allegedly from Weidel in which she called German politicians "pigs" and "puppets of the victorious powers in World War II. Weidel initially claimed the mail was fake, but now admits its authenticity.

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Frauke Petry

German border police should shoot at refugees entering the country illegally, the former co-chair of the AfD told a regional newspaper in 2016. Officers must "use firearms if necessary" to "prevent illegal border crossings." Communist East German leader Erich Honecker was the last German politician who condoned shooting at the border.

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Björn Höcke

The head of the AfD in the state of Thuringia made headlines for referring to Berlin's Holocaust memorial as a "monument of shame" and calling on the country to stop atoning for its Nazi past. The comments came just as Germany enters an important election year - leading AfD members moved to expel Höcke for his remarks.

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Initially, the AfD campaigned against the euro and bailouts - but that quickly turned into anti-immigrant rhetoric. "People who won't accept STOP at our borders are attackers," the European lawmaker said. "And we have to defend ourselves against attackers."

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Andre Wendt

The member of parliament in Germany's eastern state of Saxony made waves in early 2016 with an inquiry into how far the state covers the cost of sterilizing unaccompanied refugee minors. Thousands of unaccompanied minors have sought asylum in Germany, according to the Federal Association for Unaccompanied Minor Refugees (BumF) - the vast majority of them young men.

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Poggenburg, head of the AfD in the eastern state of Saxony-Anhalt, has also raised eyebrows with extreme remarks. In February 2017, he urged other lawmakers in the state parliament to join measures against the extreme left-wing in order to "get rid of, once and for all, this rank growth on the German racial corpus" - the latter term clearly derived from Nazi terminology.

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Alexander Gauland - again ...

During a campaign speech in Eichsfeld in August 2017, AfD election co-candidate Alexander Gauland said that Social Democrat parliamentarian Aydan Özoguz should be "disposed of" back to Anatolia. The German term, "entsorgen," raised obvious parallels to the imprisonment and killings of Jews and prisoners of war under the Nazis.

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... and again

Gauland was roundly criticized for a speech he made to the AfD's youth wing in June 2018. Acknowledging Germany's responsibility for the crimes of the Nazi era, he went on to say Germany had a "glorious history and one that lasted a lot longer than those damned 12 years. Hitler and the Nazis are just a speck of bird shit in over 1,000 years of successful German history."

nm/rt (AFP, dpa)

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