• 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
SPD: Restore 45-percent investment tax
The tax privilege for investment income is unfair, says the SPD. Photo: DPA

SPD: Restore 45-percent investment tax

The centre-left half of Germany's coalition government has called for the old top rate of a 45-percent tax on investments to be brought back - to match standard income tax and fight the squeeze on middle incomes. READ () »

Customs find smuggled cash in every third car
Sniffing out the money. Photo: DPA

Customs find smuggled cash in every third car

The number of Germans smuggling large amounts of cash across the Swiss border rose dramatically last year. Customs officers said on Thursday they made a find in almost every third car they checked. READ () »

Crystal meth use hits record level
Crystal meth seized in Bavaria. Photo: DPA

Crystal meth use hits record level

Consumption of crystal meth in Germany appears to have reached a record level, according to government figures published on Thursday. READ () »

Child's near death sparks row over refugee homes
Leonardo had to have a finger and toe amputated after staff refused to call an ambulance. Photo: DPA

Child's near death sparks row over refugee homes

A political row has broken out in Bavaria after an asylum seekers' home failed to help a toddler who almost died of meningitis. The case has raised concerns about the treatment of refugees in the state. READ () »

Bayern and Dortmund to face off for German Cup
Kaiserslautern fans let off flares in the Allianz Arena on Wednesday night. Photo: DPA

Bayern and Dortmund to face off for German Cup

Holders Bayern Munich will face Borussia Dortmund in next month's German Cup final after cruising to a 5-1 win over second-division Kaiserslautern in Wednesday's semi-final. READ () »

Zalando hits back after undercover report
Working conditions at online retailer Zalando are under the spotlight. Photo: DPA

Zalando hits back after undercover report

Online fashion retailer Zalando has prompted an investigation by state prosecutors in Erfurt against an undercover journalist who revealed alleged "trade secrets" in a TV report on Monday night. READ () »

Ex-minister jailed over F1 race track scandal
Ingolf Deubel in court on Wednesday. Photo: DPA

Ex-minister jailed over F1 race track scandal

A former state finance minister was sentenced to three-and-a-half years in prison on Wednesday, having been found guilty of embezzling money in the scandal around the failed sale of the Nürburgring Formula One race track. READ () »

Upper Bavaria boasts lowest EU unemployment
A Bavarian worker works hard Photo: DPA

Upper Bavaria boasts lowest EU unemployment

Southern and central Bavaria have the lowest unemployment in the EU, according to figures released on Tuesday, with one business leader boasting the area has “de facto full employment”. READ () »

Thousands of tax evaders come forward to declare
Uli Hoeneß was jailed last month for tax evasion. Photo: DPA

Thousands of tax evaders come forward to declare

The number of German tax evaders who have self-declared to avoid prosecution trebled in the first quarter of 2014, figures published on Wednesday showed, with the rise put down to the "Uli Hoeneß effect". READ () »

Petition fails to remove WWII Russian tanks
One of the WWII Russian tanks near the Brandenburg Gate. Photo: DPA

Petition fails to remove WWII Russian tanks

The German government rejected on Wednesday a call by two newspapers to remove Russian tanks from a World War II memorial in central Berlin in protest against spiralling tensions in Ukraine. READ () »

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Photo: DPA
Gallery
Nine ways to celebrate Easter like a German
Photo: Galerie Bilderwelt
Gallery
World War I in colour photos
Photo: DPA
Society
'The mafia has infiltrated every sector in Germany'
Photo: DPA
Society
JobTalk: Why you should teach English in Germany
Photo: DPA
National
330,000 sign up against TV licence fee
Photo: DPA
Hamburg
School kids hospitalized after 'porno' party
Photo: Submitted
Frankfurt
'I'll get even with my old pal Schwarzenegger'
Photo: DPA
Gallery
The week in pictures: April 5th - April 11th
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
Munich's baby polar bears are finally named
Photo: DPA
Gallery
The 10 best German employers to work for
Advertisement:
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:ESL
Sponsored Article
How to integrate successfully 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

3,133
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd