The government in Berlin has called for a swift investigation into the possible theft of documents, which were allegedly sold on to lobbyists in the pharmaceuticals industry. Health Minister Daniel Bahr is not amused.
Germany's health minister told the mass-circulation paper "Bild" on Wednesday that he was seeking answers in a case where documents from his ministry were apparent sold on to industry lobbyists from within.
"I am utterly furious about this criminal activity," Bahr told "Bild", using a colloquial term "stinksauer," sometimes translated with a stronger word than "furious."
"The public prosecutor must clear this up quickly," he added.
Prosecutors are investigating whether an individual described in German media reports as a "freelance representative of the pharmaceutical industry" managed to enlist a mole within the health department, procuring information from the secret source.
Berlin's investigators believe that the individual was working in conjunction with somebody in the ministry's information technology department, who provided emails, ministry decisions, draft laws and other information for a fee.
The health ministry uses an external company for its Information Technology services. A suspect has been identified by prosecutors. He has been banned from the department since November 20, according to a health ministry spokesman.
Germany's "Süddeutsche Zeitung" newspaper reported that the documents included those from the ministry's highest security level, in other words communications directly from Bahr and his predecessor as health minister, Philipp Rösler. Both politicians are members of the Chancellor Merkel's junior coalition partners, the Free Democrats.
Public prosecutors are still investigating the case, so could not provide specifics on the individuals and companies involved.
msh/dr (dapd, Reuters)