Germany Probing Far-Right Lawmaker for Alleged Corruption

(Bloomberg) -- German authorities said they’ve launched an investigation into a member of the lower house of parliament for the far-right Alternative for Germany party suspected of corruption and money laundering.

Most Read from Bloomberg

The AfD confirmed the target of the probe is Bundestag lawmaker Petr Bystron, who last month denied allegations that he took cash from a Czech-based, pro-Russia media outlet. In an emailed statement, party co-leaders Alice Weidel and Tino Chrupalla said the lower house in Berlin had lifted Bystron’s parliamentary immunity and his office and private rooms had been raided.

Properties in Berlin, Bavaria and Mallorca are being searched Thursday to seek evidence, Munich prosecutors and the Bavarian Crime Office said earlier in a joint statement. Bystron’s representatives at his Bundestag office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Bystron — who is second on the AfD’s candidate list for next month’s European Parliament elections — has accused the Czech government of a defamation campaign designed to influence the outcome of the June 6-9 vote.

Czech news website Denik N reported that the nation’s counterintelligence agency obtained a recording that suggested Bystron received money from Prague-based media outlet Voice of Europe.

The alleged campaign “aims to damage opposition politicians in several European countries and silence critical journalists,” said Bystron, who was born in the former Czechoslovakia.

Weidel and Chrupalla asserted that “no evidence has been provided for the accusations that have been made against Mr. Bystron for weeks.”

They added that they hoped the investigation would be concluded quickly so that “there is no suspicion that authorities and public prosecutors are trying to influence the European election campaign.”

Read More: Germany Inc. Steps Up Call Against Populist ‘Poison’ Before Vote

Thursday’s announcement is just the latest potential setback for the AfD, although some of their supporters may see it as fresh evidence of what they believe is an establishment campaign against the party.

An aide to Maximilian Krah, the lead AfD candidate in the EU ballot, was taken into custody last month suspected of spying for China, while Bjoern Hoecke, the head of the party in the eastern state of Thuringia, was this week found guilty of using a Nazi slogan at a rally and fined €13,000 ($14,133).

Weidel on Thursday called the Hoecke case an attempt to “discredit” him ahead of September’s Thuringia election.

“I have to say that we are now witnessing methods deployed in our constitutional state that are actually not seen any longer in democracies,” Weidel said in an interview with television broadcaster RTL/ntv.

An Insa poll published this month confirmed the AfD in first place in Thuringia with 30% of the vote, ahead of the Christian Democrats on 20%. They are also leading in Saxony and Brandenburg, which have elections in September as well.

The AfD is in second place on around 18% in most national polls ahead of Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s Social Democrats, having peaked at around 23% in December.

The main opposition conservatives lead on about 30% ahead of the next federal election due by the fall of 2025.

--With assistance from Karin Matussek, Laura Malsch, Michael Nienaber and Patrick Donahue.

(Updates with Weidel comments starting in 11th paragraph)

Most Read from Bloomberg Businessweek

©2024 Bloomberg L.P.