On Thursday morning, the Berlin police searched the rooms of people close to the artist collective “Center for Political Beauty” (ZPS). That said a spokesman for the police. The reason for the investigation is an action by the collective in the federal election campaign. With a fake company called “Flyerservice Hahn” the artist collective had deceived the AfD and offered as a service provider to distribute advertising material for the party. But that ended up in the trash instead.
Ten officers of the state security responsible for politically motivated crimes at the State Criminal Police Office (LKA) searched an apartment and a studio that morning from 7 a.m. The raid lasted until 9 a.m., according to a police spokesman, the investigators secured data carriers.
The Berlin public prosecutor’s office has so far been investigating a suspect and other unknown accomplices. At the request of the public prosecutor’s office, a judge issued the search warrants on suspicion of falsification of evidence-relevant data.
The corresponding paragraph of the Criminal Code states: “Anyone who saves or changes evidence-relevant data for the purpose of deceiving legal transactions in such a way that a false or falsified document would be present if they were perceived, or uses data stored or changed in this way, is subject to imprisonment of up to five years or punished with a fine. “
According to the public prosecutor’s office, the ZPS with fake staff, the fake company and a fake website gave the impression that it was a real company that offered the distribution of flyers for money. The fantasy company is said not to have invoiced the AfD for the service – therefore it is not investigated for fraud and forgery of documents.
Political scientists had criticized the artist collective’s action as problematic: because all parties should have the same opportunities in the election campaign and should not be hindered in any way. The collective now complained after the search, however, “the first official act of the new R2G Senate in Berlin: search the apartments of artists”. This is a “black day for artistic freedom in Germany”.
Search warrant tweeted? That would be a criminal offense
The collective’s lawyers declared that the search by the LKA Berlin was “a political scandal!”. The reasons given for the search warrant are advanced. “The allegations are never enough to even bring charges.”
In addition, the ZPS tweeted a photo of an excerpt from an obviously official letter that it could be an excerpt from the judicial search warrant. The public prosecutor’s office is now examining the tweet, because it could also be a criminal offense – namely “prohibited communications about court hearings”. Anyone who publishes official documents from criminal proceedings “before they have been discussed in public or before the proceedings have been concluded” can be punished with a prison sentence of up to one year.
The letter tweeted by the ZPS reads: “The aim of the accused and his accomplices was to get subdivisions of the party, Alternative for Germany (AfD) and individuals belonging to this party to send election flyers. By agreeing with them to distribute them for a fee. In fact, it was never intended to distribute the flyers. Rather, it was important for the accused and his accomplices to keep the flyers at least until after the election of the 20th German Bundestag on September 26, 2021 and thus prevent them from being distributed. “
The crass actions of the “Center for Political Beauty”
85 orders received from the AfD
The ZPS had advertised with the bogus company “Flyerservice Hahn” at the AfD to distribute their campaign flyers in the federal election campaign. The alleged Lower Saxony medium-sized company is said to have received a total of 85 orders from the right-wing populist party, including district associations from Bavaria, Rhineland-Palatinate, Brandenburg, Hesse, Schleswig-Holstein, Baden-Württemberg, Lower Saxony and North Rhine-Westphalia. Employees of the flyer distribution service picked up the campaign material from the respective district associations and were supposed to bring it to the voters’ mailboxes using the company’s widely advertised distribution structure.
It just never came to that. The action artists collected the material, bunkered it and finally destroyed it – a total of five million flyers, 72 tons. Two days after the election, they committed to the action. Even then, they emphasized that they had not stolen any campaign material from the AfD. It was said that the party had merely been offered to take over the distribution.
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The collective was surprised at how many AfD associations fell for the “Flyerservice Hahn” despite a missing tax number, commercial registration and incorrect address. Not a single order has been formally confirmed or sealed by a signed contract, the artists say.
AfD immediately announced criminal charges
However, there were already doubts about the representation at the time: According to an ARD research, the website of the bogus company should have been edited afterwards. Before that, a registration number and a tax number were stated in the website’s legal notice. In addition, the “Flyerservice Hahn” is said to have advertised with alleged customers such as the FDP and Deutsche Post as cooperation partners.
The AfD had already reported the loss of campaign material two days before the election day and suspected the ZPS. After the artists admitted to it, the party announced a criminal complaint. It is based on contract documents, e-mail correspondence and photos that were sent to the AfD federal office by the AfD district associations and mandate holders concerned about the matter.
The “Center for Political Beauty” then immediately prepared for a legal dispute – and called for donations for it. After the searches on Thursday, the collective renewed its appeal.