Economy & Politics

ExklusivBerlin is hunting down Corona aid fraudsters

With empty chairs in front of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, restaurateurs, organizers and hoteliers are protesting against the inadequate Corona aid.
Protest by restaurateurs and hoteliers in front of the Brandenburg Gate: In Berlin, small business owners received help during the Corona crisis more quickly than in any other federal state. The downside: Subsidy fraudsters also benefited from the grantsimago images / F Boillot

After sharp criticism of the disbursement of Corona emergency aid almost without examination, the state of Berlin is trying to limit the damage. As the Berlin public prosecutor’s office confirmed at’s request, a special investigation group was set up in the authority to pursue abuse and fraud in the aid. In the group, “six public prosecutors under the direction of a senior public prosecutor,” said a spokeswoman. The aim is “to move forward quickly in this complex of proceedings”. More than 300 proceedings have already been initiated to skim off the assets of recipients.

At the beginning of the Corona crisis in the spring, thousands of cases had become known nationwide in which self-employed individuals and small businesses had wrongly applied for and received grants that do not have to be repaid. It was particularly easy for fraudsters in Berlin because the Senate had almost 2 billion euros paid out to more than 200,000 recipients in an extremely unbureaucratic manner and at a rapid pace – albeit with almost no controls. In the beginning, applicants in Berlin did not even have to give their tax number, unlike in other federal states. Internally, the State Criminal Police Office had therefore warned early on that this procedure would encourage abuse.

According to its own information, the Berlin public prosecutor’s office is currently processing around 900 cases of criminal offenses in connection with Corona aid. In addition, about 1,700 other proceedings are pending at the LKA that have not yet been recorded, said a spokeswoman. The total damage should amount to around 9 million euros.

Since the summer, the public prosecutor’s office has also been investigating the head of the state-owned investment bank Berlin (IBB), through which the emergency aid was applied for and paid out. It is about the suspicion of infidelity and aiding and abetting of infidelity. Politically, too, the lax payment practice in the capital is causing trouble – including in the federal government, which provided the majority of the money. The focus is on Senator for Economic Affairs Ramona Pop (Greens) and Senator for Finance Matthias Kollatz (SPD), who also sit on the promotional bank’s board of directors. As it became known in the summer, both senators are said to have been personally involved in the creation of the IBB’s application form for the aid and to have pushed for simplifications.

Other procedures must stand back

At the request of, an IBB spokesman said that the development bank and the Senate administration had been “in close coordination” to set up the Corona emergency aid programs. “There was an exchange with the Senate Administration on the way to apply – as with other Senate programs. This ensured that the approval process complied with the decisions of the Senate and the House of Representatives. ”The IBB spokesman pointed out that the development bank had been commissioned by the Senate to implement the emergency aid program. A “separate management board resolution” of the bank was therefore “not necessary”.

According to insiders, the special investigation team at the public prosecutor’s office should now also go back to a suggestion from the Senate – possibly to cushion the political pressure. On the other hand, a spokeswoman for the public prosecutor’s office emphasized that the establishment of the Corona aid investigation group was an “internal decision by the authorities”. A spokeswoman for Senator for Economics Pop also emphasized that the public prosecutor’s office makes its decisions “independently”. Internally, however, the secondment of the public prosecutors for the corona grants in the prosecution leads to resentment. Because of a lack of capacity, other economic proceedings would have to be postponed, according to investigators. As a result, this could lead to some cases of economic crime in Berlin becoming statute-barred.

The article appears in 11/2020. interested in Here is the Subscription shopwhere you can order the print version. Our digital edition is available at iTunes and GooglePlay

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