• Germany edition
 
City 'sold empty houses without finding owners'
Photo: DPA

City 'sold empty houses without finding owners'

Published: 23 May 2012 15:25 GMT+02:00
Updated: 23 May 2012 15:25 GMT+02:00

The eastern German city of Leipzig is being rocked by a property scandal after the local council allegedly sold homes without tracking down the rightful owners, pocketing over €6 million.

According to a report in Wednesday's Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper, the city council is alleged to have sold off over 400 properties after reunification, without making adequate efforts to track down potential owners.

According to the report, the properties would be officially designated as having no owners, and then sold to interested bidders via a legal proxy; the paper claims the process of so-called "cold expropriation" dates back to the mid-1990s.

But numerous irregularities are now beginning to emerge. The Süddeutsche reports that not only were many of the properties still privately owned, but also that the legal proxy and the eventual buyer would often be one and the same person.

Properties were also sometimes sold as much as three times over to generate maximum income.

That income totalled around €6.3 million – and ended up in a municipal deposit account, under the name "herrenlose Häuser" ("abandoned houses"). City officials have in recent weeks made some efforts to trace the proprietors to whom this money rightfully belongs, but with little success.

"Hardly anyone has come forward," city spokesman Matthias Hasberg told the paper, and many are likely to have died in the intervening period.

The scandal threatens to re-awaken the notorious Sachsensumpf ("Saxon swamp") affair that scandalized the city in the late 1990s and early 2000s, where high-ranking politicians, judges and civil servants were alleged to have connections with organised crime and child prostitution rings.

An investigative process is now under way into the new scandal: the issue was debated in the city council last week, and some politicians have demanded the names of participants in the transactions.

Amid speculation that the new scandal could embroil many of the same people implicated in the Sachsensumpf affair, attention has turned to the city’s legal office, heavily involved in the first case.

The state parliament is considering a dissolution of the office, but state prosecutors say the office’s female director and two colleagues have already been placed on leave.

Leipzig Mayor Burkhard Jung has so far flatly denied any knowledge of the sales.

His predecessor Andreas Müller has been the department head responsible for the controversial legal office since 1994 – in other words since the start of the irregular sales. He has also disavowed any knowledge of the transactions.

The Süddeutsche points out that Müller told the city council last week he had read all the audit office reports during his tenure – yet it was the audit office that first drew attention to the irregularities in 1999.

The Local/jpg

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Don't miss...X
Left Right

Your comments about this article

16:16 May 23, 2012 by IchBinKönig
the greed of Government. well, at least now the tax payer gets to pay their legal fees.
10:08 May 25, 2012 by Sayer
And they said the Nazis were bad!
16:42 May 25, 2012 by jabulani
I LOVE LEIPZIG ...if owners did not leave fordwarding addresses or pay their taxes etc...the city cannot stop progress on renovating its buildings. At least they have tryed to find the owners.

I dont really know the ins and outs of the story...but i am happy somebody did not unlawfully pocket the money ...this would be done in no time for many other countries I know.
06:48 July 11, 2012 by Klaipeda
This sounds like a good opportunity for the Jews to cash in again. They can claim their grandparents owned these homes in the 1930's. Anyone who asks for proof will be called an anti-semite. They can make a mint off of this.
Today's headlines
German of the Week
'It's important people are confronted with cancer'
Photo: Marina Proksch-Park

'It's important people are confronted with cancer'

Images of children with cancer often evoke weakness and defeat. But Marina Proksch-Park shows them enjoying life. The photographer who has sparked an online campaign with her pictures is The Local's German of the Week. READ () »

CDU candidate forced to remove Turkish logo
Yasar Calik. Photo: Facebook/Yasar Calik

CDU candidate forced to remove Turkish logo

A Christian Democrat (CDU) town council candidate has apologized and withdrawn campaign bags on which he had printed a new party logo where the Turkish crescent appeared inside the "C" for Christian. READ () »

Cheap flights get pricier as airlines expand
Lufthansa's daughter company Germanwings is one of the faster-growing budget airlines in Germany. Photo: DPA

Cheap flights get pricier as airlines expand

Budget airlines are expanding their range of routes from Germany but ticket prices are climbing along with them, a report from the German Aeronautics Centre (DLR) revealed on Thursday. READ () »

Ecclestone lawyers: Bribes never happened
Bernie Ecclestone with his lawyers in a Munich court on Thursday morning. Photo: DPA

Ecclestone lawyers: Bribes never happened

UPDATE: Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone went on trial in Germany on Thursday, denying charges of bribery that threaten to land the British billionaire in jail. READ () »

Minister praises Erasmus 'success story'
Photo: DPA

Minister praises Erasmus 'success story'

A revamped version of European student exchange programme Erasmus officially launched in Berlin on Thursday with Germany's education minister praising the scheme as a Europe-wide “success story”. READ () »

Turkey tourists lose call to prayer refund bid
Photo: DPA

Turkey tourists lose call to prayer refund bid

A German couple has lost their legal fight to get a refund for a Turkish holiday which they said was ruined by the calls to prayer from a nearby mosque. It is just one of a series of court claims by picky German tourists. READ () »

Germany halts arms sales to Russia
Russian troops surround a Ukrainian base in Crimea. Photo: DPA

Germany halts arms sales to Russia

Germany has stopped selling arms to Russia due to the current “political situation”, according to reports on Thursday. The sale of military equipment to Russia by German firms has been criticized by the country’s Nato allies. READ () »

Truck kills man lying in middle of road
Photo: DPA

Truck kills man lying in middle of road

Police were searching for witnesses on Wednesday morning following a mysterious road accident in which a 25-year-old man was killed as he lay in the middle of the road. READ () »

Where are Germany's smartest towns?
Germany's cleverest town. Photo: DPA

Where are Germany's smartest towns?

A brain training website released scores on Wednesday showing which German towns performed best and worst in a range of cognitive tests - with some surprising results. READ () »

April wraps up with stormy week ahead
Lightning over Lake Starnberg, in Bavaria. Photo: DPA

April wraps up with stormy week ahead

The end of April is looking stormy for Germany with hot and cold air mixing and making for wild spring weather over the coming few days, state forecasters DWD said on Wednesday. READ () »

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Photo: DPA
National
Germany sold €40 million of arms to Russia
Photo: DPA
National
Girls find live ammunition in Easter bonfire
Photo: Facebook/screenshot
Berlin
Germany's most viral advert for an apartment?
Gallery
11 things you need to know about German beer
Photo: DPA
Politics
Interview with AfD - 'If Britain goes, Europe is lost'
Photo: DPA
National
Police damage own water cannon with eggs
Photo: DPA
National
Let us start work later after World Cup nights, unions says
Photo: DPA
Society
Crystal meth use hits record level
Photo: DPA
Rhineland
Elderly man taped €200,000 to his genitals
Photo: DPA
Business & Money
What's the unemployment rate in your area of Germany?
Photo: Galerie Bilderwelt
Gallery
World War I in colour photos
Photo: DPA
Society
JobTalk: Why you should teach English in Germany
Advertisement:
Photo: DPA
National
330,000 sign up against TV licence fee
Photo: Submitted
Frankfurt
'I'll get even with my old pal Schwarzenegger'
Photo: DPA
Gallery
Ten great inventions you (probably) didn't know were German
Photo: J. Arthur White
Berlin
Clashes in Berlin as refugees tear down their own camp
Photo: DPA
Gallery
The 10 best German employers to work for
CurrencyFair
Sponsored Article
Why it pays to avoid banks when making overseas transfers
Mr. Lodge
Sponsored Article
How to find a furnished rental in Munich
Sponsored Article
How to make a lasting impression in business
Hult International Business School
Sponsored Article
What they don't teach you at Business School
Photo: DPA
Society
Nine jobs you can only do in Germany
Photo: DPA
Business & Money
JobTalk: All you need to know about working in Germany
Photo: DPA
Features
The Local List Archive - Your guide to all things German
National
Share news tips with The Local Germany
Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se

3,077
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd