German lawmakers to grill Merkel over Wirecard scandal | News | DW | 10.03.2021

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German lawmakers to grill Merkel over Wirecard scandal

A Bundestag committee will question the German chancellor and Finance Minister Olaf Scholz. Talking to DW, an opposition lawmaker accused Angela Merkel of lobbying for Wirecard during a visit to China.

On Wednesday, German lawmakers said they planned to question Chancellor Angela Merkel and Deputy Chancellor and Finance Minister Olaf Scholz about the Wirecard scandal

Wirecard filed for protection from creditors through insolvency proceedings in June 2020 after admitting that €1.9 billion supposedly held in trust accounts in the Philippines probably didn't exist. The onetime up-and-coming digital payment giant was also found to be billions in debt. The company is alleged to have falsified balance sheets for years.

Free Democrats (FDP) financial expert Florian Toncar told DW that Merkel "lobbied in favor of Wirecard with the Chinese president" during a 2019 trip to China.

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"At that point of time, the chancellor should not have lobbied in favor of the company, but rather the prosecutor and the police should have marched in and searched the premises of the company," he said.

Merkel will be summoned to testify on April 23, a day after Scholz, the candidate whom the center-left Social Democrats (SPD) have tipped to succeed the Christian Democrat Merkel after the national election this year.

Toncar also told DW that Scholz's ministry failed to avert the scandal.

"Most of the political responsibility lies with the Ministry of Finance, the ministry of Olaf Scholz," said Toncar, a lawyer who specializes in international finance and a member of the parliamentary inquiry investigating the Wirecard insolvency.

'Culture of nonresponsibility'

Members of a parliamentary committee set up to investigate the widely publicized affair claim that they uncovered massive failures on the part of German authorities and politicians.

On Wednesday, the German lawmaker Toncar told reporters that financial authorities and political leaders had "cogent, well-founded indications of criminal behavior at Wirecard ... and not just from the newspapers."

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He slammed a "culture of nonresponsibility" in Germany, saying it was mainly focused on "who has jurisdiction and who doesn't have jurisdiction."

"Our impression, by the way, is that it gets worse the higher up the hierarchy you go,'' he said.

Such fraud 'takes a network'

Left party lawmaker Fabio de Masi accused government officials of cooperating to allow the "fraud."

"No single person can carry out such a fraud, it takes a network," de Masi said. Among other things, he criticized "a very continuous commitment of the German government" to Wirecard in China even after serious allegations had come to light.

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Supervisors failed to heed the warnings

The nine-member investigation committee was set up at the beginning of October at the request of the opposition parliamentary groups of the Left, the Greens and the FDP. Authorities are also probing the fugitive former chief operating officer of Wirecard, Jan Marsalek, who was reported to have been an informant for the Austrian intelligence agency BVT.

Interpol issued a red notice for Marsalek in 2020 on charges of "violations of the German duty on securities act and the securities trading act, criminal breach of trust (and) especially serious case of fraud.''

lc/dj (AFP, AP)