In the midst of the corona pandemic, the “lateral thinkers” formed and protested against the lockdown policy. The initiative needed money for this. The judiciary has doubts as to whether everything was right – and has now sent a prominent representative to prison.
According to his lawyer, “lateral thinking” initiator Michael Ballweg could remain in custody for a long time because of the investigation into fraud and money laundering.
Lawyer Ralf Dalla Fini told the German Press Agency in Stuttgart that he first wanted to request access to the files. Even if it’s quick, it could take a week or ten days. The public prosecutor’s office has not yet determined. Only when he knows the situation in the files can he decide on how to proceed. He advised his client not to comment on the allegations.
Pre-trial detention due to the risk of absconding
The police searched two apartments and business premises in Stuttgart on Wednesday and arrested the 47-year-old “lateral thinking” founder. Ballweg has been in custody since Wednesday evening because of the risk of absconding. The 47-year-old is said to have raised money through public appeals since May 2020 and deceived about the intended use, as the police and public prosecutor in Stuttgart had previously announced.
The supporters of the “lateral thinking” initiative have been taking to the streets against the state corona measures for months. During the demonstrations, there were repeated attacks on police officers and media representatives. Various state offices for the protection of the constitution are monitoring the movement. The Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution is targeting the scene as a “collective observation object”. The Internet group Facebook and the video platform YouTube deleted “lateral thinking” pages.
According to previous investigations, the allegations against Ballweg are about a “higher six-digit amount”. According to information from legal circles, there is a suspicion of fraud in the amount of around 640,000 euros and money laundering in the amount of around 430,000 euros.
Investigations also against wife
The investigation is directed against two suspects. According to dpa information, the second suspect is Ballweg’s 43-year-old wife. Attorney Dalla Fini declined to comment. During the searches, the emergency services secured evidence that is now being evaluated, according to the information. According to information from judicial circles, the tax investigators were also involved in the search in Stuttgart.
The “lateral thinking” initiative called for rallies in several cities. Among other things, there was a “solidarity demo” for Ballweg near the prison in Stuttgart-Stammheim.
Dalla Fini and other lawyers planned to meet Thursday evening to discuss how to proceed. According to his own statements, the defense team includes Ralf Ludwig, who describes himself as a “lateral thinker lawyer”. He regularly gave Ballweg legal advice and was a close friend, Ludwig told dpa. Ballweg called him yesterday. He then organized a lawyer because he wasn’t around and wasn’t a criminal lawyer.
SPD politicians: Completely clarify business practices
Political observers welcomed the investigation into Ballweg. The SPD’s constitutional protection expert in the Baden-Württemberg state parliament, Boris Weirauch, said, for example: “The business practices of the so-called lateral thinkers and their backers must be fully clarified.” The financial flows of extremist movements must be dried up. “These people must be deprived of the resources that enable them to fight our democracy.”
In the spring of 2021, his parliamentary group insisted on examining the financial flows, said Weirauch. “Even then there was a suspicion that the organization was apparently specifically recruiting funds from supporters without providing clear proof of use.”