The public prosecutor’s office has brought charges against “lateral thinking” initiator Michael Ballweg for attempted fraud and money laundering. This was announced by a spokesman for the authorities on Friday in Stuttgart. It’s also about tax crimes. However, the spokesman did not provide any further information, citing tax secrecy. The 48-year-old Ballweg has been in custody for about nine months.
One of Ballweg’s lawyers dismissed the charges. “The allegations are fully rejected,” said the defense attorney. The indictment has been known for a few days. But the details of this have only now been published by the authority. According to the indictment, Ballweg is accused of having raised financial donations of more than one million euros for the organization “Quermachen 711” by public appeals from several thousand people since May 2020 at the latest. He is said to have deceived the donors about the use of the funds. Also about the fact that he is working on the recognition of the non-profit status of “Quermachen 711” by the tax office in the form of an association or a foundation. According to the lawyer, it is about attempted fraud in 9,450 cases.
According to the public prosecutor, Ballweg is said to have used over 500,000 euros for his own purposes. The downgrading of the allegations of fraud to attempted fraud is justified as follows: It cannot be ruled out that the funds he used for private purposes came from those supporters who at least agreed to the corresponding handling.
Ballweg is also accused of money laundering. He is said to have concealed the allegedly illegal origin of the financial donations raised in the mid-six-figure range by making four cash payments. Four other allegations of money laundering were dropped, prosecutors said.
The district court of Stuttgart must now decide on the opening of the main hearing. The defense attorney from Ballweg’s legal team again demanded the release of the 48-year-old from custody. There is no reason for an arrest warrant. Ballweg’s accounts are frozen and he is ready to accept reporting requirements. Ballweg failed, among other things, with a constitutional complaint, which was not accepted for decision.
The “lateral thinking” movement had formed in many German cities from Stuttgart in the course of the corona pandemic. The supporters repeatedly demonstrated publicly against the political measures to contain the virus. There were also attacks on police officers and media representatives. The Office for the Protection of the Constitution monitors the scene for anti-constitutional views, conspiracy ideologies and anti-Semitic tendencies. (dpa)
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