Ex-police officer and celebrity chef among 25 people arrested over coup plot in Germany

Chef Frank Heppner allegedly responsible for recruiting new members and obtaining weapons

A celebrity gourmet chef whose daughter is the girlfriend of the Real Madrid footballer David Alaba and an ex-police officer once tasked with protecting Jewish communities from terror attacks are among the latest figures to have been linked to the foiled Reichsbürger coup plan in Germany, with further arrests expected as investigations continue.

Details emerging after the biggest ever national police operation against rightwing extremism indicate that suspects may have been informed in advance of the raids, in which 3,000 police officers targeted more than 150 addresses across Germany, and in Austria and Italy, making 25 arrests.

The number of suspects had risen to 54 by Friday, with more arrests expected. Weapons were found at more than 50 locations, including rifles and ammunition, according to the Federal Criminal Police Office.

The group, inspired by Reichsbürger ideology that the modern German state is illegitimate, had planned to storm the Reichstag building and arrest parliamentarians before overthrowing the government and installing a regime led by a 71-year-old aristocrat as its head of state.


Frank Heppner, a star cook from Munich, who was arrested on Wednesday at a five-star hotel in the Austrian ski resort of Kitzbühel where he worked, was allegedly a member of the command staff of the military arm of the terrorist group, responsible for recruiting new members, obtaining weapons and other equipment, as well as building a bug-proof communication and IT structure. He was also tasked with running the canteen that would have provided meals for the members of the so-called “New German Army”.

The Austrian daily Die Presse, citing investigators, said 62-year-old Heppner was also to be the personal cook to Heinrich XIII, Prince of Reuß, after he was installed as king. It said Heppner provided the group with money, cooking utensils, a camper van and an emergency generator.

Heppner’s 28-year-old daughter, Shalimar, is in a relationship with Alaba, a professional footballer who plays for Real Madrid and captains the Austrian national team. The couple have a son who was born in 2019. Alaba was not responding to requests for comment, according to German media who tried to contact him.

Among others alleged to have been part of the group was an ex-police officer once tasked with protecting Jewish communities from terror attacks. Michael Fritsch was arrested with his partner, Melanie Ritter, near Hanover in northern Germany.

Fritsch, who is 58 years old, was suspended from duty in 2020 and later sacked, after he appeared at protests organised by Covid deniers. He later became a parliamentary candidate for DieBasis, the political party of the Covid-denying Querdenker movement. His legal appeals process against his dismissal is still outstanding.

The far-right Alternative für Deutschland continued to try to distance itself on Friday from its former member, Birgit Malsack-Winkemann, a serving judge who was arrested at her home in western Berlin on Wednesday morning for allegedly being one of the key plotters. Her post-coup role was to have been justice minister.

There were widespread calls for an overhaul of access to the Reichstag. Malsack-Winkemann, who as a former MP had the right to access the parliament building, had allegedly provided the military arm of the group with important logistical information about how to enter.

“A renewed control of access to the Bundestag by former MPs of the AfD is a necessity after the revelations around Malsack-Winkemann,” said Konstantin Kuhle, the deputy parliamentary leader of the pro-business liberals, urging security forces to bar anyone it considered a potential security risk.

The extent to which the group had the capacity to turn its power fantasies into reality remains a matter of heated discussion. According to Der Spiegel magazine, among the items seized in the raids were 9mm pistols, swords, knives, stun guns, combat helmets, night vision equipment, and the duty weapons of a policeman and policewoman who were among the suspects.

The leftwing daily Die Tageszeitung reported that investigators found a “hit list” with 18 names and addresses on it of prominent German politicians and journalists that the group may have intended to target. They included the foreign minister, Annalena Baerbock, along with six other members of the Bundestag and three public broadcaster television presenters. – Guardian