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German Crime Trackers Close Shop

December 29, 2000

BERLIN (AP) _ A special police branch that tracked crimes by East Germany’s communist regime and by fraudsters who reaped illegal rewards during German reunification is shutting down, a decade after Germany became one nation again.

Closure of the office on Dec. 31 comes after the statute of limitations on most crimes committed during East Germany’s 41-year existence expired on Oct. 3, the 10th anniversary of reunification.

At peak times, some 700 officers worked in the Berlin-based Central Investigating Office for Government and Unification Crimes, set up in 1992. They investigated more than 20,000 cases and recovered assets worth $1.2 billion, Berlin police chief Hagen Saberschinsky said Thursday. He gave no details.

The amount is believed to represents only a fraction of the economic crime that went with east Germany’s often chaotic transition to capitalism.

Perhaps the most spectacular post-unity case for Berlin prosecutors, who worked closely with the police office, was the trial of East Germany’s last communist leader, Egon Krenz. He is serving a 6 1/2-year sentence after being convicted of sanctioning the policy that led to shooting deaths at the Berlin Wall.

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