Canadian-German arms dealer faces May 5 verdict

30th April 2010, Comments 0 comments

A verdict is expected May 5 in the case of an arms dealer extradited from Canada to Germany over an alleged role in a scandal that helped propel Chancellor Angela Merkel to power, the court said Friday.

Karlheinz Schreiber, 76, who holds dual Canadian and German citizenship, has already pleaded innocent in the court in the southern city of Augsburg, to charges of tax evasion, bribery and accessory to fraud.

Prosecutors say he withheld more than 12.3 million euros (16.4 million dollars) in taxes between 1988 and 1993 and offered bribes to ensure government approval for the sale of armoured cars to Saudi Arabia.

If convicted, Schreiber could face 15 years in prison.

He is also accused of playing a key role in a sprawling slush-fund affair that rocked the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party in the 1990s and tarnished the legacy of former chancellor Helmut Kohl.

Schreiber is believed to have made an undeclared one-million-mark (500,000-euro) cash donation to the CDU, prompting a political scandal that claimed the scalp of then party head, Wolfgang Schaeuble, now finance minister.

During the affair, Merkel wrote an editorial in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung daily in 1999 calling for Kohl to come clean over the funding scandal and for the party to break with its murky past.

Merkel's willingness to put her head above the parapet during the scandal marked her out as a future leader and she was elected head of the CDU the following year.

The verdict will bring back painful memories for the party only four days before a key regional election that could cost Merkel's coalition its majority in the Bundesrat, Germany's upper house of parliament.

© 2010 AFP

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