Alexander Schalck-Golodkowski, the long-serving head of East Germany's foreign trade operations who helped keep the communist country afloat by procuring Western cash through often-murky deals, has died. He was 82.

Schalck-Golodkowski's publisher Verlag Edition Ost said Monday that he died June 21 in a Munich hospital after a long battle with cancer.

Schalck-Golodkowski was a discreet but influential figure whose office handled the purchase of high-tech, luxury and other goods as well as the sale of East German products to pay off the country's debts.

He boasted of bringing in billions in hard currency for East Germany.

After reunification, he was convicted in 1998 of illegally importing technology in contravention of an embargo, but acquitted of carrying out illegal money transfers and wasn't tried over other allegations of financial wrongdoing.