A German bishop has been charged with embezzling money from an elderly woman.

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The Diocese of Aachen, in western Germany, announced December 5 that auxiliary bishop Johannes Bündgens, 64, has been charged with the fraud by a District Court in Kerpen, near Cologne.

The prelate, auxiliary in Aachen since 2006, stands accused of receiving almost 128,000 euros from a 78-year-old woman acquaintance who was no longer legally competent.

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Prosecutors began their investigations into Bündgens in the spring of last year, when they found the woman victim had given the bishop power of attorney for her account.

Between December 2017 and January 2018, Bündgens allegedly transferred the six-figure sum from the woman’s balance into his own private account.

After the power of attorney was revoked, alarm bells were raised over the high value of the transactions.

Bündgens argued that the woman gave him the money for the right to live in a property acquired by him in Aachen.

However, when investigators objected that that presumed right of the woman wasn’t reflected in the land register, Bündgens admitted the deal never came to fruition due to the woman’s declining health.

The bishop said he has since paid back the almost 128,000 euros to the woman in full.

What’s next

Aachen Vicar General Andreas Frick told media that although he had known of the indictment since October, Bündgens only told Aachen Bishop Helmut Dieser of the charges December 3.

Through his office, Dieser said he was “shocked” by the charge against his auxiliary, and urged that the matter be cleared up as soon as possible.

In the meantime, the diocese announced that Bündgens, who is currently on a trip abroad, would be stepping down from his responsibilities as bishop with immediate effect.

For his part, the accused prelate pledged to cooperate fully with the investigation.

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