“He [Schäuble] admitted that he had met the arms dealer and lobbyist at the centre of the scandal, Karlheinz Schreiber, and accepted an undeclared DM100,000 (£36,300) cash donation from him.”This inconspicuous line appeared in a BBC story Wolfgang Schaeuble: Germany's man with a Grexit plan. I hadn’t heard about this background detail before. Why not?
In November 2013, Karlheinz Schreiber was sentenced by a German court to six and a half years for tax evasion. He was also involved in "inappropriate" transactions with former Canadian prime minister, Brian Mulroney. "Mulroney admitted taking $225,000 in cash from Schreiber, but said he broke no laws or ethical guidelines."
That's a lot of cash. "Broke no laws or ethical guidelines" doesn't pass the laugh test.
The nature of Schäuble's shady dealings with Schreiber have apparently never been fully disclosed, apart from his admission that he accepted the cash, which resulted in his resignation as leader of the CDU and Angela Merkel's elevation to that post.
German party leader took cash from arms dealer, Guardian, January 11, 2000
In a new twist to the illicit funding scandal that has embroiled Germany's Christian Democrats, their leader, Wolfgang Schäuble, last night admitted he too had accepted cash from the arms dealer Karlheinz Schreiber for party funds.
The former chancellor Helmut Kohl is already under criminal investigation after admitting last year that he funnelled cash to the Christian Democrats (CDU) through a web of secret bank accounts. He has refused to name the donors, in contravention of German law.
According to a report to be published today in the newspaper Stuttgarter Zeitung, Mr Schäuble, who has always enjoyed a reputation for integrity, has been put "under massive pressure" by Mr Kohl to own up to his role in the irregular financing.
In an interview with the television channel ARD, Mr Schäuble said he took DM100,000 (£32,114) from the arms dealer which he had passed on to the party. He said that, unlike the money which Mr Kohl funnelled to the CDU, the cash he took did figure in the party's accounts but was reported under "miscellaneous income".
That would suggest that the handling of the donation contravened a law which calls for contributors who give more than DM20,000 to any political party to be identified.
Mr Schäuble, who became party chairman after Mr Kohl's crushing defeat in the 1998 election, was already under pressure to explain another mysterious - and apparently illicit - movement of funds.Germany's Schreiber Affair: The Scandal that Helped Merkel Become Chancellor, Speigel Online International, August 07, 2009:
Revised accounts released by the CDU at the end of last year showed that in January 1997, more than DM1m was sent by the parliamentary party to party headquarters in apparent defiance of a ban on such transfers. Mr Schäuble was leader of the parliamentary party at the time.
Unexpected Questions In Parliament Led To Lies
Meanwhile Kohl’s likely successor in the CDU, Wolfgang Schäuble, was becoming ever more enmeshed in the Schreiber scandal. At the time, Schäuble was one of the most popular politicians in the country and in 1997 Kohl had handpicked Schäuble to succeed him at the head of the CDU — but because the CDU lost the election in 1998, Schäuble became the party’s chairman.
When questioned in parliament in 1999 about whether he had accepted a donation during a meeting with Schreiber, Schäuble disputed the question. But in a radio interview in January, he admitted he had met Schreiber at least once more. That created suspicion that a second donation had been made. Whatever the case, indignation within the ranks of the CDU and its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU) toward Schäuble grew so much that he was forced to resign.
So how exactly did Merkel profit from the Schreiber incident? The former party secretary became aware that, in the face of an unexpected question in parliament, Schäuble had lied about taking cash from Schreiber. Merkel realized at the time that this secret would eventually come out and would inevitably lead to Schäuble’s downfall. She also knew that, if she wasn’t careful, she could go down with him. After all, it was only logical that the general secretary of a party would have the confidence of the head of that party.
And so she wrote about it — in what was widely described as a “Dear John” letter addressed to Kohl and published in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper on Dec. 22, 1999. In the letter she was very critical of Kohl, saying that the new generation of politicians in the CDU needed to distance themselves from him, in the same way that teenagers must distance themselves from their parents if they are to become adults. Even though Merkel had only told Schäuble about plans to publish the open letter the night before, Kohl was convinced that the missive had been published with Schäuble’s foreknowledge and approval.
Suddenly Kohl seemed to discover his old political boisterousness, attacking Schäuble ever more vigorously. Perhaps he wanted to secure a virtuous place in the national history as the “father of German unity” — he had presided over the re-unification of East and West Germany — rather than the infamous politician with the dirty donations. A war of words, via various interviews, ensued, the likes of which had not been seen before. The fight between the two former friends and allies escalated to the point that Kohl abdicated his seat as honorary chairman of the CDU and Schäuble resigned his position with the words: “The CDU finds itself in the most serious crisis in its history.”The scandal that rocked the government of Helmut Kohl, Deutsche Welle, January 18, 2010
Despite the two-and-a-half year probe into the CDU's murky financial dealings, the chairman of the special parliamentary investigation committee said during the time that key questions in the affair still remained unanswered.
"A lot of untruths have been told in this committee, to put it mildly. I can also be more brutal and say: 'a lot of lies have been told,'" said Volker Neumann, a member of the center-left Social Democratic Party.
"For years, the CDU hasn't just breached party funding laws but it was also guilty of political corruption on several accounts under then Chancellor Kohl," Wolfgang Stroebele of the Green Party said.
The CDU denied allegations of corruption but the affair engulfed other leading lights of the party too. In early January, 2000, CDU chief Wolfgang Schaeuble, Kohl's handpicked successor, admitted he had received a payment of 100,000 deutschmarks from Schreiber.
Money being exchanged
But Schaeuble, Germany's current finance minister, insisted he had forwarded the money to the CDU's then treasurer, Brigitte Baumeister, and had nothing to do with the illegal booking of the money. Baumeister rejected the accusation, saying she had handed over the money to Schaeuble in an envelope.
The allegations were never proved in court but the affair cost Schaueble his job. He was replaced by Angela Merkel.
A political scandal
In many cases, the courts were unable to prove that CDU heavyweights were indeed involved in the affair. Proceedings against Helmut Kohl in a court in Bonn were stopped.
And authorities in Augsburg suffered a setback when Joerg Hillinger, the public prosecutor in an investigation of the CDU party in the state of Saxony was killed in a car accident in April 1999.
His death came shortly after investigations uncovered dubious dealings in the state party. Till today, it remains unclear whether his death was an accident or murder.
The CDU slush fund scandal has all the makings of a political affair. Till today, the names of the donors remain unknown and it remains unclear how many millions the party actually received in secret donations.
Investigators had hoped the arrest of former Deputy Defense Minister Holger Pfahls in July 2004 - after five years on the run - would shed more light on the affair. But that didn't happen.