The leadership of the German Greens, which are currently part of a three-party governing coalition, is being investigated by prosecutors over their role in approving bonus payments last winter. The “Corona bonuses,” valued at 1,500 euros, were distributed to employees at the party headquarters in Berlin, and to the leaders of the party. They were intended to compensate for any complications or inconveniences associated with remote work.
The national board of the party includes the two former leaders of the party, Annalena Baerbock and Robert Habeck. Baerbock (now serving as Foreign Minister) and Habeck (Economy and Climate Protection Minister, as well as Vice-Chancellor) have both stepped out of their party leadership roles since joining the government, as is Green Party policy.
Internal party auditors questioned the leadership’s involvement in the decision that would ultimately lead to them receiving a bonus. These bonuses are worth far more than the 300 Euro limit on special payments set out in the Greens’ internal regulations. Complaints were leaked to the press in the form of an internal report back in May of 2021.
After several private criminal complaints were received, Berlin prosecutors were obliged to look into the affair. Prosecutors had an “initial suspicion of embezzlement,” according to a spokesperson for the prosecutor’s office. Under German law, embezzlement is punishable by a financial penalty or up to five years in prison. The prosecutor’s office has since noted that “the (party’s) main office is cooperating fully with the public prosecutor’s office to clarify the facts quickly and comprehensively.”
The bonuses have been fully paid back by all members of the national board. These bonuses were the subject of controversy during the campaign in the lead up to the national election of 2021. When questioned on the decision to approve a bonus for herself, Baerbock replied: “We shouldn’t have done it that way.”