Merkel Backs German President as Scrutiny Grows of Business Ties
German Chancellor Angela Merkel came to the defense of President Christian Wulff for a second time as her party ally faced growing scrutiny of a private home loan and vacations at the homes of business people.
“The president is doing an excellent job,” Merkel said today in Pristina, the capital of Kosovo, where she was visiting German troops. She welcomed Wulff’s decision to make available documents related to the loan, saying that she has “full confidence” in him.
Wulff, elected to the largely ceremonial post in June 2010 with Merkel’s backing, has been the focus of German media attention since Bild reported on Dec. 13 that he received a loan of 500,000 euros ($651,000) from a businessman’s wife in 2008 to buy a house. “Wulff teeters,” the newspaper headlined a front- page story yesterday.
A former deputy leader of Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union party, Wulff listed six vacations he spent at the homes of business friends while he was state premier from 2003 to 2010. The stays were with “private friends” and in accordance with state ethics rules, Bonn-based lawyer Gernot Lehr said in a statement issued on Wulff’s behalf yesterday.
Three of the stays were with Egon Geerkens and his wife Edith, who Wulff says gave the loan to the then-premier and his wife. A savings bank in Osnabrueck, Wulff’s home town, issued the loan as a cashier’s check drawn on the Bundesbank, the German central bank, according to a Dec. 16 statement by Lehr.
Egon Geerkens said he negotiated the loan with Wulff and sought to keep it private, Der Spiegel reported in this week’s edition. The money came from a joint account with his wife, the magazine said, citing multiple interviews with Geerkens.
Wulff hasn’t addressed details of the Spiegel report, which quoted Geerkens as saying, “I didn’t want some bank trainee seeing that so much money was going to Wulff from me.”
Wulff “at no time had reason to doubt that the loan sum, as described when the loan was agreed, came from the fortune of Mrs. Edith Geerkens,” said Lehr, the lawyer. Documents related to the loan are being made available by Wulff’s lawyers today.
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