German coup suspects had 'gold bars and €400,000 in cash'

Suspected far-right plotters had plans to set up 280 militias, MPs told

Police search Waidmannsheil hunting lodge at Bad Lobenstein, central-east Germany, during raids last week. Reuters
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Germany’s suspected coup plotters had at least €400,000 ($422,000) in cash and may have had millions in gold bars, MPs have been told.

These new details emerged at a closed-door hearing where parliamentarians were briefed on last week’s raids.

Raids across Germany exposed what prosecutors said was a right-wing plot to overthrow the German state.

Clara Buenger, one of the MPs briefed, said plans to set up 280 militias had been uncovered by investigators.

The idea was that a network of militias would defend the new regime installed by the plotters, according to prosecutors.

“People who took part in these militias were meant to sign non-disclosure agreements, and there had already been shooting practice,” Ms Buenger said.

She said authorities had found gold coins and sums of cash worth €400,000.

“There is much more money involved than we knew so far. More than €6 million in gold bars is still meant to be hidden somewhere,” she said.

A total of 54 people are under investigation, of whom 23 are in German custody and two are awaiting extradition from Italy and Austria.

One of the suspected ringleaders is a minor prince, Heinrich XIII, a descendant of German nobility.

MPs were briefed on the coup investigation in a secure part of the parliamentary basement. AP

The alleged plotters were influenced by the right-wing Reichsbuerger (Citizens of the Reich) movement and conspiracy theories such as QAnon, prosecutors claim.

Konstantin von Notz, another MP briefed on the alleged plans, said it was clear Heinrich’s network posed a “growing threat” to public safety.

“Reichsbuerger and QAnon supporters are not harmless oddballs” but enemies of the democratic order, he said.

“It shows that conspiracy theories spread and fuelled online can lead to very real threats to life and democratic institutions,” said Mr von Notz.

Prosecutors briefed MPs on alleged links between the suspects and the German police and military.

They said the alleged terror group was actively trying to recruit in the ranks of the security forces.

Interior Minister Nancy Faeser wants to change disciplinary rules to sack public servants with far-right leanings more easily.

But she faces resistance from police unions, who accuse her of overturning the presumption of innocence.

A separate debate concerns whether to tighten Germany's gun laws to take weapons out of the far right's hands.

Germany's intelligence services are concerned that some far-right sympathisers are known to be armed.

However, some lawmakers do not believe additional legislation is required.

“We don't need a tougher weapons law, but a resolute implementation of the current law,” senior liberal MP Konstantin Kuhle said.

Updated: December 13, 2022, 10:10 AM