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The BBC's Peter Morgan in Berlin
"There is no doubt that he broke the law"
 real 56k

Die Zeit newspaper's Robert Leicht
"The whole procedure did not deal with the question of whether he received secret funding"
 real 28k

The BBC's William Horsley
"For more than a year Kohl has defied the law"
 real 28k

Friday, 2 March, 2001, 12:11 GMT
Kohl charges dropped
Helmut Kohl in January 2000
Kohl was forced to resign as CDU honorary chairman
The former German Chancellor, Helmut Kohl, will not be prosecuted for accepting illegal political donations worth two million marks ($1m) while he was in office.

A court in Bonn agreed that prosecutors should abandon their 14-month investigation of Mr Kohl and the secret donations to his party, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU).

Mr Kohl will pay a fine of 300,000 marks ($142,000), but will not be left with a criminal record.

The scandal has blighted the reputation of one of Western Europe's longest-serving post-war leaders - the man who oversaw the reunification of Germany in 1990 - forcing him to resign as honorary chairman of the CDU.

Separate inquiry

Mr Kohl still faces a separate parliamentary inquiry as to whether the donations constituted bribes.

Helmut Kohl
Kohl paid back eight million marks
He admitted breaking rules on the funding of political parties, but rejected accusations that he accepted the donations in return for political favours.

Mr Kohl persistently refused to name the people who had given him the money - something which correspondents say fuelled the controversy further, and damaged both his own reputation and that of the CDU.

The party fell from power in 1998 when elections resulted in a coalition government of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) and the Green Party.

The impact of the scandal on the CDU's reputation is thought to have left it with little chance of recovering before general elections due next year.

Lack of evidence

The investigation into Mr Kohl for a suspected offence of breach of trust was officially called off for lack of evidence.

Now he has bought his way out of the investigation

SPD secretary-general Franz Muentefering
The presiding judge said the decision had been taken because there was still no clear prospect of the case leading to a successful prosecution.

She added that the court questioned whether the costs and use of resources of the judiciary were justified in view of the circumstances.

The fine Mr Kohl is due to pay comes in addition to the eight million marks he raised from his own savings and from supporters to pay back the secret donations he had admitted, together with penalty payments imposed on his party.

SPD attack

The BBC's European Affairs correspondent William Horsley says that in German law a conviction for breach of trust can lead to a prison sentence but usually does not.

It is seen as a relatively minor offence because it applies to deception or other financial irregularities in which the victim is allied to the accused - in this case Helmut Kohl's own party.

The governing Social Democrats have accused Mr Kohl of dodging the criminal investigation and suggested that he had received favoured treatment from the courts.

"Helmut Kohl has stayed true to himself," said the party's secretary-general, Franz Muentefering.

"Now he has bought his way out of the investigation with DM300,000."

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