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Former German president's estranged wife takes the stand in corruption trial

The wife of former German President Christian Wulff has given testimony in the corruption case that forced her husband from office in 2012. He faces bribery charges for allegedly accepting gifts from a movie producer.

A Hanover district court heard testimony from Bettina Wulff, 40, the wife of former German President Christian Wulff on Thursday. The estranged spouse answered questions relating to a family trip to Munich's Oktoberfest in 2008. Her husband was the state premier of Lower Saxony at the time.

In question was whether a film producer had paid a large portion of the Wulffs' expenses in Munich in exchange for the politician's influence. Prosecutors allege Wulff had subsequently helped persuade the Munich-based engineering giant Siemens to sponsor one of the producer's films following the visit to Oktoberfest.

Bettina Wulff testified on Thursday that her husband was close friends with the film producer David Groenewold, who has also been charged in the case. She refuted the bribery claims, depicting the friendship of one as give and take, particularly when the couples dined together.

"You don't split the bill down to the last cent when you're friends," she said.

According to prosecutors, Groenewold paid over 700 euros in expenses when Wulff, his wife and their son visited the world-renowned beer festival. The bill included the hotel expenses, child care and tickets.

Frau Wulff dismisses claims

When asked about her husband's spending and drinking habits, Bettina Wulff described him as a man reluctant to use credit and debit cards, preferring to carry large sums of cash instead.

"He doesn't have a wallet," she said.

The judge also questioned the sum of money paid for champagne on one of the evenings - roughly 3,000 euros for five bottles. In response, Wulff's wife said others must have ordered and drunk the champagne. Her husband rarely drank, she said, adding that she herself had drunk little because she had still been breastfeeding their son at the time.

The Wulffs separated earlier this year. When asked to describe their current relationship, Bettina Wulff said they were regularly in contact with each other

"It's a very friendly relationship," she added.

Ruling could come early

The Hanover court also announced on Thursday it planned to give an interim conclusion next week, which could end proceedings before the project April end date.

The trial began in November.

Christian Wulff,

once a rising star

in Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party,

resigned his post as president in February 2012

as allegations about his relationship to David Groenewold emerged. The ex-president

opted to go to court rather than to pay a 20,000-euro settlement.

In 2010, Wulff became Germany's youngest president, taking over the position at the age of 51. He had previously served as the premier of Lower Saxony. At the time of his resignation from the presidency, he also faced allegations of accepting a cheap home loan and vacation perks during his term as state premier.

The corruption scandal divided public opinion in Germany. As details emerged, the media engaged in a debate over several weeks over the gravity of the allegations against Wulff and his early departure. The incident caused embarrassment for the chancellor, who was forced to find a new head of state, the fourth since the beginning of her time in office in 2005.

kms/mkg (AFP, dpa)

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