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Thursday, 29 June, 2000, 09:46 GMT 10:46 UK
Q&A: Germany's party funding scandal
BBC News Online considers who and what is behind the crisis which has shaken German politics to its core.

Who is involved?

The scandal began with the emergence of a series of undeclared contributions given to Helmut Kohl's Christian Democrat party, the CDU, by arms dealer Karlheinz Schreiber when Mr Kohl was German chancellor.

Mr Kohl has also admitted that he ran a network of secret CDU accounts containing a stash of anonymous donations controlled by a former party official nicknamed "the Postman".

Since then a series of revelations has brought to light further murky financial dealings, implicating almost the entire senior CDU leadership.

In early January Mr Kohl's hand-picked successor, CDU chief Wolfgang Schaeuble, admitted that he had also taken money from Mr Schreiber and was forced to step down as party leader in February.

How serious is the crisis?

According to German law, political donations of more than DM20,000 ($10,260) must be declared, while this funding scandal involves millions of dollars' worth of secretly donated funds.

Mr Kohl has repeatedly refused to name any of the secret donors, saying he cannot break the promises he made to them.

The most serious allegation is that the donations were kept secret because they influenced key government decisions.

Exactly how much money is involved?

In January, auditors investigating the finances of the CDU said that they had failed to trace the origin of nearly $6m paid to the party in secret campaign donations.

Parliament has ordered the party to pay back about $21m in state financing as punishment for flouting the country's strict political funding rules. The CDU has also been fined $3m.

German television has also reported that former French President Francois Mitterand arranged payments of about DM 30m ($15.7m) to the CDU, through a French oil company.

In the state of Hesse at least $1.6m has disappeared from a Swiss bank account. The state party admitted it operated a secret Swiss account, funnelling millions back into party coffers and falsely booking the money as bequests from Jewish supporters

Mr Kohl has so far admitted receiving about $1m in secret donations, but has denied corruption.

Is Helmut Kohl's reputation now in tatters?

Mr Kohl's reputation has been dented, but many still remember him fondly as the man who presided over the reunification of East and West Germany.

At the same time, many feel that his reluctance to reveal sources of funding implies that he has something to hide.

What does the future hold for the CDU?

The CDU's poll ratings have plummeted across the country.

The short-lived Schaeuble leadership proved the need for a leader who could demonstrate a clean break from the past and who could reunite a party which has been split down the middle over whether to take action against Mr Kohl or to remain loyal to him.

There are fears that the party may have suffered irreparable damage.

What have investigators discovered?

Special investigator Burkhard Hirsch has revealed that Mr Kohl's administration destroyed two thirds of its computer files during its last days in power.

He said that key documents with a bearing on the slush-fund scandal were among those that had been manipulated or gone missing.

Mr Hirsch said the deletion was not a slip of the finger, but "a massive annihilation of data... without any sort of legal justification".

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