Police officers have arrested the “Querdenker” co-founder Michael Ballweg in Stuttgart. The public prosecutor’s office in the state capital of Baden-Württemberg said in a joint statement with the police that the 47-year-old was suspected of having raised funds through public appeals since May 2020 and of having misled the donors about the intended use. It is about suspected fraud and money laundering.
Ballweg is said to have raised “a higher six-digit amount” with appeals for donations for the “lateral thinking” alliance, which is critical of the corona measures, and used it improperly for himself. Search warrants were carried out in two apartments and business premises on Wednesday. The confiscated evidence is now to be evaluated. The suspect assets are confiscated from Ballweg.
When asked by WELT, the police did not want to comment on reports that Ballweg’s wife was also accused.
In the past, observers had repeatedly expressed the suspicion that the entrepreneur was using the “lateral thinking” movement for his own financial enrichment. The activist Giulia Silberberger, who campaigns against conspiracy theories with the “Der goldene Aluhut” initiative, had already reported Ballweg to the tax investigation department in 2020. Silberberger accused the initiators of “smuggling a lot of money to the state”. The Baden-Württemberg anti-Semitism commissioner Michael Blume recently accused Ballweg of “commercial fraud”. He also presented this assessment to the police and the Green Finance Minister Danyal Bayaz, Blume told the “Südwest Presse”.
“lateral thinking” had regularly called on various channels to transfer money – including to Ballweg’s private account. The movement’s website said: “Please state DONATION in the subject line”. In May of this year, the Volksbank is said to have terminated several of Ballweg’s accounts.
Ballweg, who entered 19 trademarks related to the term “lateral thinking” in the trademark register in order to sell merchandise, had always publicly declared that he “complied with all legal requirements” and had “not used any income from the donations for himself privately”.
Ralf Ludwig, a lawyer from the “lateral thinking” environment, wrote on Telegram on Wednesday that the allegations against Ballweg were “constructed” and were a result of the entrepreneur’s “political activities”. It is important to appeal to rule-of-law procedures “even in an unlawful state”.
In its most recent annual report, the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution pointed out that protagonists of “lateral thinking” were calling for the overthrow of the existing political order. There are also connections to right-wing extremists and to “Reich citizens” and “self-administrators”.
Ballweg should be brought before a magistrate on Wednesday. A police spokesman said the investigation was currently in progress. The investigations are ongoing.