Bogus bids halt auction of Merkel's first car

BERLIN, April 16 Mon Apr 16, 2012 11:30am EDT

BERLIN, April 16 (Reuters) - An online auction for German Chancellor Angela Merkel's first West German car was stopped on Monday after online auction company Ebay said bogus bidders drove up its price to 130,000 euros ($170,000).

Merkel bought the car, a white 1990 model Volkswagen Golf, in 1990 about a month before German reunification on Oct. 3, 1990. The simple three-door Golf car was registered in her name until 1995.

The seller, an anonymous Berlin resident, advertised the vehicle on eBay as "our Chancellor Merkel"s historic VW Golf" along with a copy of the car's registration papers and photographs of it parked in front of the chancellor's office in central Berlin.

"We noticed that all the offers had come from fake bidders," an Ebay spokeswoman said. "In order to protect the seller, and with his agreement, we decided to stop the auction."

"The auction will now take place again over the weekend. However, this time, we will follow another procedure that restricts the offers to cut out fake bidders."

Like most East Germans, Merkel had placed an order for a Trabant, the standard car in Communist East Germany. But she never received the car and like many of her compatriots bought West German cars soon after the Berlin Wall fell in 1989.

Nowadays Merkel rides around in an armoured Audi but her husband Joachim Sauer still drives a Volkswagen, German magazine Spiegel said in its online edition.

In a similar auction in 2005, a U.S. bidder paid nearly $250,000 for a 21-year-old gray 1990 Volkswagen Golf that once belonged to Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who later became Pope Benedict.

($1 = 0.7644 euros) (Reporting by Elisa Oddone, writing by Gareth Jones, editing by Paul Casciato)