Transparency Germany, Transparency International’s national chapter, has filed a criminal complaint against the Bundestag member Karin Strenz (Christian Democratic Union of Germany, CDU) and the former Bundestag member Eduard Lintner (Christian Social Union in Bavaria, CSU) in an alleged bribery case orchestrated by the Azerbaijani government. The watchdog has asked the Public Prosecutor’s Office in Berlin to determine if the two politicians violated the German Criminal Code’s section 108e on bribery and corruption of elected officials.
The evidence for the criminal complaint stems from the leaked bank records from 2012 to 2014 that were analysed by the Organized Crime and Corruption Project. Investigative journalists revealed that the Azerbaijani ruling elite operated a US$3 million slush fund and a money laundering scheme to, among other things, bribe politicians to water down critical human rights resolutions and election observation reports. At the centre of the scheme was the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), where Strenz and Lintner were delegates.
Edda Müller, Chair of Transparency Germany, explains: “We believe the prosecution has to examine whether there are sufficient indications of an initial suspicion of parliamentarian bribery that needs to be dealt with under criminal law. Therefore, we filed a criminal complaint with the Prosecutor General’s Office in Berlin.”
The Azerbaijani Laundromat revelations shook Europe when they were published in 2017. The independent investigation set up in the wake of the scandal determined that Eduard Lintner lobbied in favour of the Azerbaijani government, while Karin Strenz’s involvement in PACE’s work on Azerbaijan was tainted by a conflict of interest. They were both banned for life from the Council of Europe and the premises of the Assembly. Further, PACE asked national authorities of all offending delegates – including Germany – to follow up on the allegations of corruption, take the necessary measures with respect to specified cases and report back to the Assembly by the end of the 2018.
Earlier this year, Bundestag reprimanded Karin Strenz over her violation of the parliamentary code of conduct. Today, German media reported that Bundestag has made a decision to impose the most severe type of sanction available and that Strenz will have to pay a fine of about €20,000.
Also this month, PACE’s Legal Affairs Committee expressed concern over the lack of accountability for the Azerbaijani Laundromat and other money laundering scandals. The Committee noted that while Karin Strenz has faced a parliamentary sanction, it is unknown if any action has been taken against Lintner.
Transparency Germany believes that the Berlin Public Prosecutor’s Office should seek accountability on this high-profile bribery scandal. Accountability on this matter will also help deter similar abuses in the future.