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Germany raids properties in bribery probe aimed at AfD politician

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AFP/The Local - [email protected]
Germany raids properties in bribery probe aimed at AfD politician
(FILES) Petr Bystron, member of Germany's far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD - Alternative fuer Deutschland) party and on the second list position for the European Election of the AfD party, speaks during the European Election Assembly of German far-right party Alternative for Germany (AfD - Alternative fuer Deutschland) at the fair grounds in Magdeburg, eastern Germany on July 29, 2023. - The German parliament on May 16, 2024 approved searches at properties of Bystron, who is accused of accepting money to spread pro-Russian positions on a Moscow-financed news website. (Photo by Ronny Hartmann / AFP)

German officials said on Thursday they had raided properties as part of a bribery probe into an MP, who media say is a far-right AfD lawmaker accused of spreading Russian propaganda.

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The investigation targets Petr Bystron, the number-two candidate for the Alternative for Germany (AfD) party in next month's European Parliament elections, Der Spiegel news outlet reported.

Police, and prosecutors in Munich, confirmed on Thursday they were conducting "a preliminary investigation against a member of the German Bundestag on the initial suspicion of bribery of elected officials and money laundering", without giving a name.

Properties in Berlin, the southern state of Bavaria and the Spanish island of Mallorca were searched and evidence seized, they said in a statement.

About 70 police officers and 11 prosecutors were involved in the searches.

Last month, Bystron denied media reports that he was paid to spread pro-Russian views on a Moscow-financed news website, just one of several scandals that the extreme-right anti-immigration AfD is battling.

READ ALSO: How spying scandal has rocked troubled German far-right party

Bystron's offices in the German parliament, the Bundestag, were searched after lawmakers voted to waive the immunity usually granted to MPs, his party said.

The allegations against Bystron surfaced in March when the Czech government revealed it had bust a Moscow-financed network that was using the Prague-based Voice of Europe news site to spread Russian propaganda across Europe.

Did AfD politicians receive Russian money?

Czech daily Denik N said some European politicians cooperating with the news site were paid from Russian funds, in some cases to fund their European Parliament election campaigns.

It singled out the AfD as being involved.

Denik N and Der Spiegel named Bystron and Maximilian Krah, the AfD's top candidate for the European elections, as suspects in the case.

After the allegations emerged, Bystron said that he had "not accepted any money to advocate pro-Russian positions".

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Krah has denied receiving money for being interviewed by the site.

On Wednesday, the European Union agreed to impose a broadcast ban on the Voice of Europe, diplomats said.

The AfD's popularity surged last year, when it capitalised on discontent in Germany at rising immigration and a weak economy, but it has dropped back in the face of recent scandals.

As well as the Russian propaganda allegations, the party has faced a Chinese spying controversy and accusations that it discussed the idea of mass deportations with extremists, prompting a wave of protests across Germany.

READ ALSO: Germany, Czech Republic accuse Russia of cyberattacks

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