German Interior Minister Otto Schily has asked Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to assist Germany in tracking down â‚¬230 million believed to be in Israel and to have been stolen by a former high-ranking official of the Austrian Communist Party (KPO), the Austrian weekly Profil reported over the weekend.
Officials in the Prime Minister's Office rejected the report, but senior police sources confirmed that the issue was raised during talks with the German Interior Minister who was in Israel two weeks ago. Schily met with Sharon as well as Internal Security Minister Gideon Ezra and head of the Israel Police Intelligence Department's Special Assignments Unit Asst.-Cmdr. Irit Bouton.
The former KPO official, Rudolfine Steindling, allegedly used the fall of the Iron Curtain and the reunification of Germany in 1989 to steal hundreds of millions in assets belonging to the German Democratic Republic and particularly a foreign trade company it owned called Novum.
Known as the "Red Fini" due to her tight contacts with the KPO, Steindling, according to the report, used her position as Novum's managing director to transfer the funds out of Germany in 1990. Steindling, who lives in Austria and Israel, claimed that Novum and the funds were not owned by Germany but rather by the KPO. A German warrant was issued for her arrest in 2003.
Steindling, 71, a known philanthropist, has contributed significant donations to the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo, The Jerusalem Foundation, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum as well as a long list of Austrian charities and museums.