German secret service destroys files on neo-Nazi terrorist gang the National Socialist Underground

Vital information was shredded on the day it was due to be handed to federal prosecutors

Berlin

Germany's equivalent of MI5 has found itself at the centre of a deepening intelligence service scandal after it was confirmed yesterday that its agents had destroyed files containing vital information about a neo-Nazi terrorist gang hours before the material was due to be handed to federal prosecutors.

The case concerns the National Socialist Underground, a neo-Nazi group responsible for Germany's worst acts of far-right violence since the Second World War. Its members murdered a policewoman, shot dead nine immigrants, mounted two bomb attacks and robbed 14 banks to finance their operations.

Police discovered the bodies of the gang's two ringleaders, Uwe Mundlos and Uwe Böhnhardt, in a burned-out caravan in eastern Germany last November. Investigators established that they had committed suicide after robbing a bank. A third member of the gang, Beate Zschäpe, was caught and arrested. She is still being questioned.

Details of the scandal were leaked to the German news agency DPA yesterday, prompting German Interior Ministry officials to admit that domestic intelligence service agents, who had been keeping the gang under surveillance for more than a decade, had destroyed files containing information about the group.

They revealed to a parliamentary inquiry that the agents had shredded the documents on November 11 – the day they were due to be handed to Germany's Federal Prosecutor, who had taken over the investigation.

Jörg Ziercke, the President of Germany's Federal Criminal Bureau, also admitted to the inquiry that his office "had failed" over the neo-Nazi investigation.

The revelations increased suspicions that neo-Nazi cell members were in the pay of German intelligence. In the past, the organisation has made no secret of the fact that it uses secret service "moles" to infiltrate the country's far-right groups. However, keeping neo-Nazis on the secret service payroll would amount to active collaboration and imply that members of the intelligence service supported their criminal acts. The intelligence services have admitted to a parliamentary inquiry that both domestic intelligence and German military intelligence used so-called "moles" to infiltrate the neo-Nazi organisations frequented by NSU ringleaders Mundlos and Böhnhardt.

Shocked German MPs yesterday insisted that the Interior Minister, Hans-Peter Friedrich, open a thorough investigation into the disclosures and bring those responsible to account.

"The whole affair is intolerable and there must be consequences," said Eva Högl, a Social Democrat MP. Clemens Binniger, a conservative MP attending the inquiry, said the revelations made" all theories possible".

The series of murders carried out by the National Socialist Underground began over a decade ago. The group singled out immigrant street vendors as their targets and specialised in shooting their victims at point-blank range in the head without warning.

The killings were mostly carried out with a Czech-made Ceska pistol but remained unsolved for years. German police put them down to immigrant gang violence and did not suspect neo-Nazis were involved.

After the discovery of the bodies of Mundlos and Böhnhardt last year, police found the Ceska murder weapon and soon established that the pair were behind the immigrant killings. Chancellor Angela Merkel described the murders as a "disgrace" for Germany. Ministers subsequently pledged to step up measures to combat the far right.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
News
election 2015
Sport
Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates his goal for Real Madrid against Juventus
football
Voices
Ed Miliband and David Cameron are neck and neck in the polls
voicesArmando Iannucci: on how British politics is broken
Arts and Entertainment
Harrison Ford plays Indiana Jones in The Last Crusade (1989)
film
Life and Style
Great minds like Einstein don't think alike
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Life and Style
A nurse tends to a recovering patient on a general ward at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham
health
News
Fans take a selfie with Ed Miliband in Kempston, near Bedford, on Tuesday
election 2015
News
science
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
News
Chuck Norris pictured in 1996
people
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Lucas, I SCREAM DADDIO, Installation View, British Pavilion 2015
artWhy Sarah Lucas is the perfect choice to represent British art at the Venice Biennale
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: IT Support Engineer - Leeds

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Support Engineer - Leeds This i...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Bristol

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment C...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Birmingham

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment C...

Guru Careers: Project Manager / Business Analyst

£40-50k + Benefits.: Guru Careers: A Project Manager / Business Analyst is nee...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power