The co-chair of the Alternative for Germany (AfD) party said his colleague Alice Weidel does not deserve harsh criticism for a reported 130,000 euros (146,000 dollars) of foreign donations from a small Swiss pharmaceutical company.
"I don't believe she needs to blame herself," Alexander Gauland told Germany's popular Bild tabloid. A party treasurer appeared to have behaved poorly, according to Gauland.
The far-right AfD has been embroiled in controversy since news of the donation scandal broke this weekend. The alleged donation was paid in tranches between July and September 2017 to the AfD's Lake Constance branch, with the payment reference "campaign contribution Alice Weidel," according to research conducted by public broadcasters WDR and NDR and daily newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung. Germany's federal elections were held on September 24, 2017.
The Zurich-based company PWS International confirmed the payment but stressed that it had transferred the money on behalf of someone else, Swiss media reported.
PWS's managing director had made the payments for a "business associate," the company's board chairman told Swiss newspaper Tages-Anzeiger, without identifying the nationality or identity of the original donor.
Weidel has said she first got wind of the "unsolicited" donation in September 2017 and later called for a repayment. There were "concerns on account of legality," she said. The repayment did not take place until April 2018. The money was perhaps paid back "too late," but the return of the donation was completed, Gauland told Bild.
The AfD could face a penalty of up to 390,000 euros as a result of the scandal, said Wolfgang Kubicki, a member of Germany's lower house of parliament and vice chair of the libertarian Free Democratic Party (FDP).