Merkel’s FDP Partner Must Pay $3.1 Million for Illegal Donations

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Free Democratic coalition partner must repay about 2.4 million euros ($3.1 million) to German parliamentary authorities after a court found the party had breached donations rules, the lower house said.

The FDP failed to disclose that it accepted millions of euros in contributions from 1996 to 2002 from its former deputy leader, Juergen Moellemann, the Bundestag in Berlin said in an e-mailed statement today. The Bundestag cited a ruling by the Federal Administrative Court in Leipzig, which “in principle” found in favor of the Bundestag authorities.

The case dates back to Moellemann’s time as head of the FDP in North-Rhine Westfalia, Germany’s most populous state. Moellemann, a former economy minister and vice chancellor in the government of Christian Democratic Union Chancellor Helmut Kohl, died while skydiving in 2003 on the day prosecutors began investigating him over the funding issue.

The Bundestag authorities, which handle party financing matters, found that the FDP had received donations that were illegal under its statutes and ordered it to pay a fine. The FDP brought a challenge against the findings, which was rejected by a Berlin regional court in late 2009. The party has already repaid about 450,000 euros, the Bundestag said today.

Now led by Philipp Roesler, the economy minister and vice chancellor in Merkel’s CDU-led government, the FDP has 4-6 percent support in the six main opinion polls less than five months before Sept. 22 federal elections. The threshold to win parliamentary seats is 5 percent.

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