BERLIN (AP) — Berlin prosecutors have opened an investigation into the leadership of Germany’s Green party, including the new vice chancellor and foreign minister, over pandemic bonus payments last winter.
Prosecutors and the party on Wednesday confirmed the investigation into a preliminary suspicion of breach of trust following a report by the weekly Der Spiegel, the dpa news agency reported.
At issue is the role of the party leadership in approving the “corona bonus” of 1,500 euros ($1,700) per person for employees of party headquarters and the leaders themselves. The bonus was meant to compensate for the inconvenience caused by working from home and by renovation works at the building.
The six-member leadership board includes co-leaders Robert Habeck and Annalena Baerbock. Habeck became Germany’s vice chancellor and the minister for economy and climate when the Greens joined Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s new government last month. Baerbock became Germany’s foreign minister.
Both are stepping down from the party leadership later this month, something that the Greens expect of government ministers.
Internal party auditors already have raised questions over the bonus payments to the leadership board, dpa reported.
The Greens party said its leadership was entitled to make the decision, but has since paid the bonuses back. It said the leadership and party headquarters are cooperating with prosecutors to clear the matter up.
Prosecutors said there had been several criminal complaints from private individuals, which they are obliged to look into. The investigation was opened on Jan. 6.