Investigators search former German president′s residence | News | DW | 02.03.2012
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Investigators search former German president's residence

Police have searched the home of Germany's former president as part of an investigation into his dealings with wealthy business friends. Meanwhile, there are calls for Christian Wulff to forgo a generous pension.

Police on Friday searched the private residence of former German president Christian Wulff.

A spokesman for the public prosecutor's office in Hanover confirmed a report first published on the website of the mass-circulation newspaper Bild.

Several officers from the Lower Saxony criminal police searched the premises with the consent of the former president, meaning they did not have to obtain a warrant, the Bild report said. Investigators seized computers from the home. The prosecutor's office described the search as a routine part of any investigation.

Christian Wulff stepped down as president on February 17, just hours after prosecutors said that they would seek to lift his immunity from prosecution. They said they had found evidence to warrant an “initial suspicion” that Wulff improperly accepted or granted benefits from a friend, German film producer David Groenwold. There were allegations that Groenewold had paid for a luxury hotel stay in 2007, something Wulff denied.

Rocky last few weeks in office

The 52-year-old Wulff had been facing growing pressure since allegations first emerged last December that he had failed to declare a private home loan received from the wife of a rich businessman friend while he was premier of the northern state of Lower Saxony. When opposition members asked him whether he had any ties to businessman Egon Geerkens, Wulff remained silent.

The former president later faced growing criticism after a story emerged that he had called the editor-in-chief of Bild to try to get him to kill the home-loan report before it was published. Unable to reach him, Wulff left an angry message on the editor's voice mail.

Pension controversy

Even after resigning from the post, Wulff's presidency has continued to be the subject of heated debate.

On Wednesday, officials at the president's office announced that Wulff was entitled to receive an annual stipend of 199,000 euros ($263,000) annually, despite the fact that he had stepped down after less than two years in office.

Some politicians have called on Wulff to waive the yearly payment.

"Wulff should not accept the gratuity," Heiko Maas, a parliamentarian with the opposition Social Democrats (SPD) said. "He could finally send a signal of reason and regret," he added.

Jürgen Koppelin of the market-friendly Free Democrats, the junior partner in Chancellor Angela Merkel's center-right coalition, struck a similar tone.

"It would be best if Mr. Wulff was to forgo the gratuity or donate the money to charities," Koppelin told German public radio. "This would help him to restore his credibility," Koppelin added.

An opinion poll released by German public television on Friday suggests most Germans seem to agree, with 84 percent saying they thought Wulff should not receive the stipend.

Wulff is set to be replaced as president by former East German human rights activist Joachim Gauck. Chancellor Merkel's government, as well as the opposition SPD and Greens, agreed last month to nominate the 72-year-old Gauck for the job. He is expected to easily get the nod when the Federal Convention gathers on March 18 to elect a new president. His only opponent is the Left party's candidate, Beate Klarsfeld who - together with her French husband - spent years tracking down former Nazis.

pfd/slk (dpa, DAPD, AFP)