Germany latest country to float chilling plans to freeze dissenting citizens’ bank accounts

The German government has announced a plan to freeze the bank accounts of people who donate money to groups and causes deemed by the state to be “right wing extremists”.

In further evidence that the traditional financial system is gradually being weaponised to punish those who express dissenting but hitherto perfectly lawful views, the German government has announced a plan to target the bank accounts of people who donate money to groups and causes deemed by the state and its functionaries to constitute “right wing extremists”.

As reported by Modernity, German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser recently announced a raft of measures that critics say are a direct attempt to chill free expression, and reign in the popularity of the right wing opposition Party, Alternative for Germany (AfD).

One such measure is to freeze the bank accounts of those found to have donated money to any group the government declares to be “far-right”.

As to how this politically motivated financial censorship will work in practice, how “right wing extremism” will be defined, whether Germany’s left-leaning tripartite coalition government will get to decide on that definition, and what penalties will be directed at those who donate to right-wing parties or organisations, Faeser was worryingly vague. Germany’s domestic intelligence agency, the Office of the Protection of the Constitution (BfV) would handle the specifics, she said.

“No one who donates to a right-wing extremist party should remain undetected,” the Minister declared, adding: “Those who mock the state must deal with a strong state.”

The Minister also urged the German Bundestag to “pass the law quickly” in order to “combat hate on the internet… remove enemies of the constitution from public service [and] disarm right-wing extremists”.

Support for the AfD has surged to over 20% of the electorate, meaning the Party is the strongest opposition to the current German government, a coalition led by the left wing Social Democratic Party.

A recent survey carried out by the Civey Opinion Research Centre for the liberal newspaper Der Spiegel, indicated that 47% of respondents nationwide said they would find it acceptable if the AfD were involved in governments at the state level in the future, reflecting a massive disconnect between the opinions held by the German public and those of the country’s political establishment. 

In several German states the foundation for this new approach has already been laid, with the BfV labelling the AfD a “definitive case of right-wing extremism”, which means the party is subject to extreme surveillance.   

Last year, for instance, AfD co-leader Tino Chrupalla revealed that Postbank, a retail banking division of massive financial institution Deutsche Bank, had terminated his account because he is an AfD member.

Chrupalla made the claim during a televised interview on the ARD network. Asked whether he frequently encounters stereotypes about East Germans, Chrupalla dismissed the notion, arguing that they do not play as much of a role these days.

However, the AfD chief went on to say that Germans living in the eastern part of the country today find themselves in a situation that feels eerily familiar to the days of the GDR, particularly with respect to the political and economic consequences that one faces for taking a position that deviates from the mainstream narrative.

“My account was cancelled by Postbank because I am an AfD member,” Chrupalla said, adding that this not only evinces how the AfD is “excluded and marginalized” from society but also that people are no longer permitted to express their opinions freely in Germany.

Chrupalla’s de-banking isn’t an isolated incident. In 2020, banking giant ING terminated the accounts of Thuringian AfD chief Björn Höcke and his wife. Two years earlier, AfD MEP Nicolaus Fest’s bank account with Deutsche Bank was also closed without prior notice. In each case, no reason was given for the account closure.

Politically motivated financial censorship of this kind is on the rise across the globe.

The relatively recent digitalisation of financial transactions has placed a vast amount of power in the hands of financial services companies like payment processors, banks, online platforms and credit companies like Visa and Mastercard. For a while, the risk that these powers might be exercised to completely cut off and shut up groups, organisations and people seemed entirely abstract. More recently, though, we’ve seen governments leaning on these companies to act in ways beneficial to state interests.

In 2019, for instance, the Russian government froze bank accounts linked to opposition politician Alexei Navalny (Reuters). Three years later, in February 2022, Canada froze the bank accounts of the ‘Freedom Convoy’ truckers who were protesting against vaccine mandates, with no due process, appeals process or court order necessary

Then, in 2023, the former head of the right-wing Brexit Party, Nigel Farage, revealed that his long-standing account with Coutts bank had been closed, after an internal risk committee determined that his views on Brexit, migration, LGBT rights and Net Zero “did not align” with the bank’s “values”.

Former Brexit Party MEP Henrik Overgaard Nielsen was also informed last year that his account with MetroBank would be terminated, while former Brexit Party MEP Baroness Claire Fox recently revealed that she had suffered the same experience, and suspected political motivation.

In the US, Representative Jim Jordan’s House Judiciary Committee investigation into federal law enforcement’s “receipt of information about American citizens without legal process” recently discovered that federal investigators asked banks to search and filter customer transactions by using terms like “MAGA” and “Trump”, ostensibly as part of an investigation into the Jan 6th demonstrations at, and assault on, the US Capitol. Individuals who shopped at stores like Dick’s Sporting Goods or purchased the bible may also have had their transactions flagged. A source familiar with the Committee’s investigation has since confirmed that the information received by the federal government was used for investigations beyond January 6th.

And following numerous legal sanctions and active investigations against leading opponents of Narendra Modi’s government, critics and rights groups recently accused India’s ruling BJP party of using law enforcement agencies to freeze the bank accounts of main opposition party Congress just weeks before the expected announcement of national elections.