BONN, WEST GERMANY AND BRUSSELS, BELGIUM
The "Flick affair", a political corruption scandal which many have dubbed West Germany's Watergate, is coming to a head midway through Chancellor Helmut Kohl's first term of office and threatens to endanger his bid for lengthy conservative rule.
BONN, WEST GERMANY AND BRUSSELS, BELGIUM
1. BONN,WEST GERMANY: NOVEMBER 15,1984: GVs & SVS EXTERIOR Bundestag building. West German flag. INTERIOR Chancellor helmut Kohl and Hans Dietrich Genscher seated talking (4 shots) 0.21
2. BONN: NOVEMBER 15,1984: GVs EXTERIOR "Dynamit Nobel Sign". Factory. GV Steyler Bank and CU Nameplate; GV Tax Office; SV PAN Tax office windows (7 shots) 0.54
3. FEBRUARY,1982: SVs INTERIOR Former Chancellor Helmut Schmidt speaking (GERMAN SOT): GV PAN Members applauding (2 shots) 1.08
4. NOVEMBER 15,1984: GVs & SVs EXTERIOR FDP building. SPD building. CDU headquarters. SPD headquarters with flags (6 shots) 1.33
5. BONN: 1972: GVs & SVs Christian Democrat leader Rainer Barzel mounts steps to rostrum as audience applauds. (MUTE) GV Bundestag SV Barzel speaking as Willy Brandt listens (5 shots) 1.58
6. NOVEMBER 15,1984: GVS & SVs EXTERIOR Finance Ministry building. Economic Ministry building (2 shots) 2.11
7. BRUSSELS,BELGIUM: NOVEMBER 29,1983: SV PAN & CU Economics Minister Otto Lambsdorff at meeting 2.27
8. BONN,WEST GERMANY: NOVEMBER 15,1984: GV EXTERIOR Parliament building ZOOM INTO SV 19th floor. INTERIOR Investigators at desks, files piled up, people talking, 'Flick' book on desk. Strauss enters committee room. Photographers. Strauss walking past camera (8 shots) 3.15
9. NOVEMBER 15, 1984: SV PAN INTERIOR Bundestag in session. Chancellor Helmut Kohl walks out of side door and closes it. 3.37
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Background: BONN, WEST GERMANY AND BRUSSELS, BELGIUM
The "Flick affair", a political corruption scandal which many have dubbed West Germany's Watergate, is coming to a head midway through Chancellor Helmut Kohl's first term of office and threatens to endanger his bid for lengthy conservative rule. The Chancellor himself has already testified before the special parliamentary committee investigating the scandal. For seven hours Kohl tried to refute charges that he had accepted payments in exchange for favours to the giant Flick industrial group. But, he acknowledged that from 1977 to 1959, as leader of the then opposition Christian Democratic union (CDU), he received a total of 53,000 dollars from an executive of the company. After two years more than 2,000 individuals and corporations are under investigation for tax evasion, laundering money and influence buying. The "Flick affair" has become the biggest political scandal in West German history and threatens the credibility of Bonn's political parties.
SYNOPSIS: The Flick affair has certainly shaken the Bundestag or West German Parliament. Prosecutors allege that in its quest for tax breaks and political influence the giant company paid out more than eight million dollars from 1969 to 1980 to German politicians from virtually every major party. Both Kohl, and his partner pictured here, Foreign Minister Hans Dietrich Genscher, have testified before the committee and denied the allegations.
Flick is an enormous holding company which counts among its subsidiaries the Dynamit Nobel plant in Bonn. This is 100 per cent owned by Flick, but there are hundreds of companies, big and small, in which Flick has a share. Money was allegedly funnelled through charities like the Steyler Mission and then "laundered" at banks like this which made it tax free.
Like Watergate, the ramifications of the affair stretch deep into the heart of the country's politics. Company records apparently show that Kohl offered to help solidify his party's support for a multi-million dollar tax break given to Flick, started in 1976 by Helmut Schmidt's Social Democratic government. Schmidt has denied allegations that he used his influence to help Flick.
The scandals have all but paralysed government, with virtually none of the man parties escaping unscathed. All the major parties, apart from the Greens, have admitted benefitting from illegal funding practices that allow big-spending donors to launder money through front operations to avoid tax.
Former Bundestag speaker Rainer Barzel addresses a rally. He has been accused of taking 565,000 dollars in indirect payments from Flick in exchange for stepping aside as CDU leader in 1973 to make way for Kohl. He has resigned but has denied any wrongdoing. Critics say the allegations have brought the taint of corruption closer to the Chancellor. Even former Social Democratic Chancellor Willy Brandt has been called to testify before the committee.
At the centre of the investigation are the Finance Ministry and the Economics Ministry. After two years of investigations the scandal shows no sign of going away.
Former economics minister Otto Lambsdorff has also been forced to resign. He denies that he was bribed to approve the 1970's tax concessions. Kohl defiantly kept Lambsdorff on for seven months after charges were filed last December until a trial was ordered in June.
Room 1903 on the 19th floor of the Bundestag Office building is the nerve centre of the inquiry. Bulging files testify to the thoroughness of investigations and their complexity. It is the room where a whole succession of West German political leaders have now given evidence. Kohl's right-wing coalition partner, Bavarian Premier Franz Josef Strauss of the CSU said, after giving this testimony before the committee, that the 11-man panel was like a Jacobin Tribunal.
There's no doubt that the inquiry has seriously tarnished the Chancellor's image but reaction has been muted largely because of the wide scope of the scandal. The public seems to be waiting for further developments. Meanwhile, observers say the Flick affair may seriously jeopardise Kohl's efforts to remain Chancellor until the next general election in 1987. He may be forced to leave the stage of German politics without even a backward glance....
Source: REUTERS LIBRARY AND MANFRED BORCHADT