By Vish Gain for AMLi
A GERMAN MP who died on a flight from Cuba to Frankfurt was under investigation for money laundering, fraud and bribery charges stemming from an ‘Azerbaijani laundromat’ scheme, it has emerged.
Karin Strenz, 53, who was a member of Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union party, was accused of accepting bribes from the Azerbaijani government in return for lobbying for their interests in Germany’s Bundestag.
According to media reports Strenz accepted €4 million in bribes through shell over UK-based shell companies. In an unusual move, the reports culminated in a police raid of the MP’s properties last year.
Strenz was one of a group of CDU politicians being investigated for their roles in the Azerbaijani laundromat scheme involving lobbying on behalf of the oil-rich and authoritarian former Soviet republic. State prosecutors began a formal investigation into her in January.
Last year’s raids were led by the Frankfurt Prosecutor’s Office and the German Federal Criminal Police Office. They searched 16 properties belonging to Strenz, including her many offices and apartments in Berlin, Mecklenberg-Western Pomerania, Bavaria and Belgium.
In 2019 she admitted a company that she ran, Line M-Trade, accepted €15,000 in donations in 2014 and 2015 without saying where the money came from.
Around the same time, she voted against a motion in the Council of Europe demanding that Azerbaijan release political prisoners. After a 2018 report found evidence of corruption, Strenz was indefinitely banned from the body.
The Bundestag earlier this year imposed a fine of €20,000 on her for accepting the undeclared donations. She faced a prison sentence of up to five years.
Last week, Strenz died on her flight back to Frankfurt from Cuba for reasons that are yet to be determined. It is understood she suffered ‘cardiac issues’.
Her flight had to make an emergency landing in Ireland’s Shannon airport where a medical team rushed her to University Hospital Limerick. She was pronounced dead at arrival.
Her husband, Eckhardt Rehberg, a fellow lawmaker with their centre-right Christian Democratic Union party, was travelling with her at the time, according to DPA news agency. It is not clear why the couple travelled to Cuba but the Bundestag confirmed on Monday it was not on official parliamentary business.
Strenz had been a member of the German parliament since 2009, representing a constituency in the north-eastern state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. A post-mortem is underway in Ireland.
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