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Monday, 10 April, 2000, 21:58 GMT 22:58 UK
Stasi recordings threaten Kohl
Mr Kohl
Helmut Kohl is threatening to sue
By European affairs analyst William Horsley

The funding scandal surrounding former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl has deepened after it has been revealed that the former East German secret service, the Stasi, intercepted and recorded telephone conversations related to the affair.

The head of the public agency set up to keep the Stasi files says they can be used to help the investigation into the affair.

But Mr Kohl himself has threatened to go to court to stop publication of any of their contents.

Markus Wolf
Markus Wolf says the files have enough information to close Kohl's case
The German press has printed a few leaked extracts from the Stasi files, in which an official of Mr Kohl's Christian Democratic Union hints at secret party funds.

And the former East German spymaster Markus Wolf says the files contain enough information to bring the criminal inquiry into Mr Kohl's actions to a rapid conclusion.

The public suspicion now is that Helmut Kohl's network of secret accounts was bigger and began earlier than he has admitted.

Stasi secrets

As chancellor, Mr Kohl himself set up an independent authority to safeguard the Stasi files.

He was happy for them to be made public during past investigations into alleged links between the Stasi and some of his political opponents in the reformed Communist Party and the Social Democratic Party.

But now that it has emerged that the files include transcripts of some conversations he and his associates had about illegal party funds, Mr Kohl has threatened to sue.

Mr Kohl
Mr Kohl has refused to reveal the donors' names in the funding scandal
He has given the head of the files authority, Joachim Gauck, until the end of this week to back down, or face court action.

Mr Kohl is now flouting the law by refusing to say who made the donations, worth at least $1m, which he says were used for party political purposes during the 1990s.

Now, Mr Kohl's critics say that he is again acting as if he is above the law.

An opinion poll suggests that more than 60% of all Germans think any relevant Stasi files should be released. In eastern Germany, public support for that idea is overwhelming.

People say anything else would show double-standards and be an insult to those people in the east who feel they have been unfairly condemned on the basis of the Stasi's evil reputation.

Stasi documents
The Stasi's 15,000 agents collected information that filled millions of files
In court, any transcripts from those files, based on illicit telephone bugging, might well be treated as tainted evidence. But they could provide valuable clues to the truth, in view of Mr Kohl's own silence.

And many have been amazed to learn how thoroughly the Stasi had West Germany's politicians covered - it is now claimed that in the 1980s, Stasi agents in West Germany listened to as many as 40,000 phone calls per year.

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21 Feb 00 | Europe
Leak foils Kohl raid
23 Jan 00 | AudioVideo
'Hoax' deepens Kohl mystery
20 Sep 99 | Britain betrayed
Fearsome Stasi held nation in its grip
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