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Wednesday, 19 January, 2000, 18:04 GMT
Kohl scandal: Fistful of dollars

Helmut Kohl: Flanked by security agents after resignation Helmut Kohl: Staying tight-lipped on secret donors

By BBC Newsnight's Jeremy Vine

Nobody ever expected Helmut Kohl's glorious career to end this way. He is now on the run from reporters as well as under investigation by a public prosecutor.

He is in disgrace, lambasted by one-time colleagues and proteges.

When I caught up with him in Poland, where he was receiving an honorary degree, I watched him sitting at the front of the cathedral in Wroclaw. He seemed agitated and lost in thought.

The man who ran Germany for 16 years, who presided over unification and appeared to embody the values of modern Europe, has already made sufficient admissions to provide his enemies with the rope to hang him.

He admits that he ran a network of secret accounts where money given to the CDU by anonymous donors was hidden and moved around by a former CDU official nicknamed "the Postman."

Secret sources

Mr Kohl has conceded that the amount which was paid over during the last decade was around $1m.

Karlheinz Schreiber: Arms dealer who donated $50,000 Karlheinz Schreiber: Arms dealer donated $50,000 to CDU
That is bad enough to dent his reputation, but the former chancellor has refused repeatedly to say where the money came from.

The question, 'Who gave you the money?', seemed almost an offence - shouted at the former statesman just after he received his doctorate from the Polish theologians. He emphatically needs to come up with an answer.

Under German law, money given to political parties must be declared. As Mr Kohl walks past our cameras with his head bowed, he refuses to do just this.

He will not reveal any details because he gave his word to the donors that their names would remain a secret.

Arms deal

The scandal is spreading. Wolfgang Schaeuble, Mr Kohl's successor as CDU leader, has admitted accepting a cash donation worth more than $50,000 from an arms dealer, Karlheinz Schreiber.

Volker Ruhe: Can he limit the damage? Volker Ruhe: Can he limit the damage?
Mr Schreiber is currently in Canada where he faces charges of tax evasion. He was one of the main beneficiaries of an arms deal with Saudi Arabia which the Kohl government authorised after he made donations to the CDU.

Mr Schreiber denies a connection, as does the CDU - but others suspect one.

The former Interior Minister, Manfred Kanther, has announced he will resign his seat in Parliament. He had earlier admitted that the CDU in the state of Hesse channelled $6.8m in campaign funds through a Swiss account back into Germany when he was state party chairman.

The money was falsely reported as bequests from abroad - incredibly, from Jewish survivors of the Holocaust.

Popularity plummets

Dr Kohl has now been dumped as the honorary chairman of his party. This was in part due to the insistence of the former Defence Minister, Volker Ruehe, that he should go.

Mr Ruehe has the nightmare task of trying to prop up the CDU's flagging provincial elections campaign in Schleswig Holstein.

Mr Ruehe is doing his best to distance his party from Mr Kohl. This will not be easy: for so long, Mr Kohl and the CDU have been one and the same.

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See also:
19 Jan 00 |  Europe
Q&A: Germany's party funding scandal
19 Jan 00 |  Europe
Analysis: Tough road ahead for CDU
04 Jan 00 |  Europe
Kohl's mark on history
18 Jan 00 |  Europe
Schaeuble: Committed to his party
04 Jan 00 |  Europe
Kohl scandal: The story so far
06 Jan 00 |  Europe
Kohl scandal: The damage to his legacy

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