The Bundestag stripped the immunity of Axel Fischer, a member of the ruling coalition-affiliated Christian Democratic Union (CDU), to give German investigating authorities the right to conduct searches and seize evidence.
On the eve of March 4, the lower house of the FRG parliament adopted a unanimous decision, following the relevant recommendations of the Munich Prosecutor General’s Office and the Federal Ministry of Justice. Apparently, the decision is related to Fischer’s possible lobbying activities in favor of the Azerbaijani authorities, Deutsche Welle reports.
At the request of the media, the Munich Prosecutor General’s Office reported that an investigation was underway on suspicion of bribery. According to this information, searches have already been carried out on the territory of six objects in Baden-Wurttemberg and Berlin, in particular, in the parliamentary office in the Bundestag and residential premises that were used by Axel Fischer. The operation involved about 60 employees of the prosecutor’s office and the German Federal Office for Criminal Affairs. The searches were preceded by large-scale investigative actions directed against former and current deputies of the Bundestag, who were part of the German delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE).
“They are accused of, among other things, receiving money from Azerbaijan in 2008-2016 through British fictitious companies to accounts in Baltic banks,” the Munich prosecutor’s office said in a statement.
According to her, the receipt of these funds was associated with the fulfillment of the requirements of Azerbaijani deputies to submit draft resolutions and vote on them, as well as to fill various positions in PACE.
The international human rights organization Transparency International (headquarters in Berlin) welcomed the large-scale investigations of the corruption scandal in the Bundestag connected with Azerbaijan, in which not only Axel Fischer was involved.
“For several years now, we have been demanding concrete conclusions from the Azerbaijani fraud from the justice and the authorities,” said Hartmut Beumer, chairman of Transparency Deutschland.
He recalled that in March 2019, the organization filed a lawsuit against German parliamentarians Karin Strenz and Eduard Lintner, accusing them of taking bribes.
For many years, the Azerbaijani authorities have been establishing contacts with German politicians, trying to improve the country’s image. They have created a network of lobbyists around former Christian Social Union (CSU) Bundestag member Eduard Lintner. It was also attended by the deputy from the CDU Karin Strenz. In January 2020, searches were carried out in the premises used by Strenz and Lintner in this regard. In March 2019, Karin Strenz was fined 20 thousand euros for not promptly notifying the Bundestag about additional earnings from Azerbaijan. Suspicions against her appeared in 2017 during a corruption scandal in PACE. In particular, the name of the parliamentarian is mentioned in the report of a group of independent experts published in April 2018 on bribes for lobbying the interests of Baku in Europe. In connection with these accusations, at the beginning of 2018, Strenz was not re-nominated to PACE, DW notes.
The episode with Strenz was only part of a large report entitled “Caviar diplomacy” on the lobbying activities of Azerbaijan, which provoked a major corruption scandal in the Council of Europe. The document stated that Baku was engaged in bribery of the rapporteurs of the PACE monitoring committee, who monitored the fulfillment of the obligations that Azerbaijan assumed upon joining the Council of Europe. Numerous gifts were used as bribes, including caviar, carpets, expensive alcohol, and jewelry.