Prosecutors to investigate chancellor
BONN, West Germany (AP) _ Prosecutors said Monday they will investigate allegations that Chancellor Helmut Kohl lied to a state legislative committee looking into campaign financing irregularities.
It will be the first time prosecutors have investigated an incumbent chancellor. The probe could result in criminal charges that carry penalties ranging from three months to five years in jail.
Prosecutors in Koblenz will pursue a complaint filed against Kohl last month by Otto Schily, a prominent member of the anti-nuclear Greens party, said the Hans Seelinger, spokesman for the prosecutor’s office.
Schily alleges that Kohl, a Christian Democrat, lied on July 18 to a legislative committee in Rhineland-Pfalz state that met in Mainz to investigate alleged schemes to evade taxes on campaign contributions during more than a dozen years ending in 1980. Kohl was the state’s governor from 1969-76.
Schily filed another complaint with prosecutors in Bonn charging that Kohl lied in November 1984 to a Parliament committee probing alleged influence peddling by the Flick industrial conglomerate.
The Bonn prosecutors have not decided whether to act on that complaint, spokesman Johannes Wilhelm said Monday.
Government spokesman Friedhelm Ost said Monday the chancellor’s office had not been notified of the Koblenz investigation officially, but that Kohl had hired a lawyer after Schily filed his complaints.
Ost said Kohl was not worried about the investigation, ″because he made his statement to the investigative committee in Mainz to the best of his knowledge and belief.″
Earlier this month, Ost dismissed Schily’s allegations as ″the latest charge in his long-running campaign of slander against the chancellor.″
The Mainz committee’s task was to determine whether 240 million marks (now $100 million) in corporate donations was funneled to the local Christian Democrats and Free Democrats, the junior partner in the federal coalition, through tax-exempt foundations from 1968 to 1980.
Kohl told the committee that he had no knowledge of such money-laundering schemes.
To many of the questions, he replied that he could not remember. ″Anyone who knows the weight of my work schedule will understand that I cannot remember such a thing after decades,″ he said at one point.
Otto Lambsdorff, who was forced out as economics minister by the Flick scandal, told the committee he had spoken to Kohl and written to him about the tax-exempt foundations in the 1970s.
The Mainz committee has finished hearing witnesses, but has not issued a final report.
Schily’s complaint was filed in Mainz, but Koblenz prosecutors took the case because they have investigated similar matters, Seelinger said.
Kohl has managed so far to avoid serious political damage from the Flick investigation in 1984-85 and the Rhineland-Pfalz inquiry.
The two were not directly related but several politicians, including Kohl and Lambsdorff, were called as witnesses in both.
Lambsdorff was economics minister under both Kohl and Helmut Schmidt, the Social Democrat who preceded him as chancellor. He resigned June 1984 and faces bribery charges in the Flick case.