To German arms dealer

German Arms Dealer

In a new twist to the illicit funding scandal that has embroiled Germany's Christian Democrats, their leader, Wolfgang Schäuble, last night admitted he too had accepted cash from the arms dealer Karlheinz Schreiber for party funds.

The former chancellor Helmut Kohl is already under criminal investigation after admitting last year that he funnelled cash to the Christian Democrats (CDU) through a web of secret bank accounts. He has refused to name the donors, in contravention of German law.

According to a report to be published today in the newspaper Stuttgarter Zeitung, Mr Schäuble, who has always enjoyed a reputation for integrity, has been put "under massive pressure" by Mr Kohl to own up to his role in the irregular financing.

In an interview with the television channel ARD, Mr Schäuble said he took DM100, 000 (£32, 114) from the arms dealer which he had passed on to the party. He said that, unlike the money which Mr Kohl funnelled to the CDU, the cash he took did figure in the party's accounts but was reported under "miscellaneous income".

That would suggest that the handling of the donation contravened a law which calls for contributors who give more than DM20, 000 to any political party to be identified.

Mr Schäuble, who became party chairman after Mr Kohl's crushing defeat in the 1998 election, was already under pressure to explain another mysterious - and apparently illicit - movement of funds.

Revised accounts released by the CDU at the end of last year showed that in January 1997, more than DM1m was sent by the parliamentary party to party headquarters in apparent defiance of a ban on such transfers. Mr Schäuble was leader of the parliamentary party at the time.

Mr Kohl is currently being investigated on a charge of "breach of trust", which is often used in cases of suspected financial misdemeanours. He also faces an all-party parliamentary commission inquiry which is to look into a claim that money given to the CDU during Mr Kohl's chancellorship influenced decisions made by his administration.

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