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AFGHANISTAN

Embassy staff suspected of taking bribes

Following the arrest of a German diplomat last month, prosecutors are now investigating other allegations that employees at numerous German embassies sold visas for bribes.

Embassy staff suspected of taking bribes
Image source: DPA

A diplomat was arrested on May 21 on suspicion of selling visas for Germany to people from Afghanistan. The 40-year old had been head of Germany’s visa office in the Gulf state of Dubai.

Investigators are now also looking at some 20 different cases in embassies and consulates in 12 different countries, although they say that there is no indication yet that these cases are related to that of the diplomat.

According to Der Spiegel magazine, for the past four years the career diplomat had allegedly been issuing visas to Afghan citizens, based on fake documents provided by a company based in the Emirates. Dubai airport is an important transit stop for Afghans who want to travel to Europe.

The price for each visa was up to $3,000 in cash. The man was arrested while on leave in Berlin and his alleged client, an Afghan business man, was arrested in Hamburg.

The Berlin State Prosecutors Office has confirmed that they are now looking into 20 cases relating to the issuing of visas. The charges are bribery, corruption and human trafficking.

There are thought to have been irregularities at German diplomatic missions in 12 countries, including the United Arab Emirates, Afghanistan, Egypt, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan.

A spokesperson for the prosecutors said that there were dozens of suspects, most of whom were locally employed workers at German embassies and consulates.

The Local/DPA/smd

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CRIME

Germany busts far-right cell planning attack on parliament

German police launched nationwide raids on Wednesday and made 25 arrests against members of a far-right "terror group" suspected of planning an attack on parliament, federal prosecutors said.

Germany busts far-right cell planning attack on parliament

More than 3,000 officers including elite anti-terror units took part in the early morning raids and searched more than 130 properties, in what German media described as one of the largest police actions the country has ever seen.

The raids targeted alleged members of the “Citizens of the Reich” (Reichsbürger) movement suspected of “having made concrete preparations to violently force their way into the German parliament with a small armed group”, prosecutors said in a statement.

READ ALSO: What is Germany’s extremist Reichsbürger movement?

Those arrested are accused of having formed “a terrorist group by the end of November 2021 at the latest, which had set itself the goal of overcoming the existing state order in Germany and replacing it with their own kind of state”, they said.

Two of the 25 arrests were made abroad, in Austria and Italy.

The Reichsbürger movement includes neo-Nazis, conspiracy theorists and gun enthusiasts who reject the legitimacy of the modern German republic.

Long dismissed as malcontents and oddballs, the Reichsbürger have become increasingly radical in recent years and are seen as a growing security threat.

Former soldiers are believed to be among the members of the recently established terror group, federal prosecutors said.

“The accused are united by a deep rejection of state institutions and the free, democratic basic order of the Federal Republic of Germany,” they said.

The suspects were aware that their plan “could only be realised by using military means and violence against state representatives,” they added.

The investigation gave “a look into the abyss” of far-right terror from the movement, Interior Minister Nancy Faeser said in a statement.

Justice Minister Marco Buschmann praised the dismantling of the “suspected terror cell” on Twitter, saying it showed that Germany was able to defend its democracy.

Russian contacts

Reichsbürger followers generally believe in the continued existence of the pre-war German Reich, or empire, as it stood under the Nazis, and several groups have declared their own states.

They typically deny the authority of police and other state institutions.

According to prosecutors, the terror cell suspects believe in Reichsbürger and QAnon conspiracy theories and are “strongly convinced” that Germany is run by a “deep state” that needs to be toppled.

They allegedly planned to appoint one of the arrested suspects, Heinrich XIII P.R., as Germany’s new leader after the coup.

He had already sought to make contact with Russian officials to discuss Germany’s “new state order” after the coup, prosecutors said.

Police before a raid on Wednesday morning in Frankfurt. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Boris Roessler

There was however “no indication that the contact persons responded positively to his request.”

A Russian woman named as Vitalia B., who was among those arrested on Wednesday, is suspected of having facilitated those contacts, prosecutors added.

As part of the preparations for the coup, members of the alleged terror cell acquired weapons, organised shooting practice and tried to recruit new followers, particularly among the military and police, according to prosecutors.

Germany’s domestic intelligence service estimates that the Reichsbürger scene consists of around 20,000 people.

Of those, more than 2,000 are deemed potentially violent.

Germany considers far-right terrorism the biggest threat to its security following a spate of attacks in recent years.

In April, police foiled a plot by a far-right group to kidnap the health minister.

The group was affiliated with the Reichsbürger movement and the so-called “Querdenker” (Lateral Thinkers) group that opposed the government’s coronavirus-related shutdowns.

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