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German President Had No ‘Reason to Doubt’ Private Loan Source

German President Christian Wulff pushed back against a report that a businessman was behind a loan he received while state premier, saying through his lawyer he had no reason to doubt the money came from the man’s wife.

Wulff, elected to the largely ceremonial post in June 2010 with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s backing, has said he took out the private loan in 2008 to buy a house with his wife and paid it back before his election to the presidency. The loan was for 500,000 euros ($651,000), Bild newspaper reported Dec. 13.

Der Spiegel magazine today quoted the businessman, Egon Geerkens, as saying he negotiated the loan with Wulff and sought to keep it private. The money came from an account of Geerkens’s wife, Edith, over which her husband had power of attorney, the magazine said in a preview of a story for next week’s edition.

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,” Wulff’s Bonn-based lawyer Gernot Lehr said in an e-mailed statement in the president’s name.

The statement didn’t directly address details of the Der 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 said in a statement yesterday that his failure to mention the loan in response to questions by opposition state lawmakers about his ties with Geerkens “may have created a wrong impression” and he has “nothing to hide.” Wulff was premier of Lower Saxony state at the time.

Merkel, a Christian Democrat like Wulff, said yesterday she “appreciates” his work as president and that the statement, his first response since the Bild article raised questions about the loan, had helped clarify the matter.

The chancellor “trusts him, his person and his conduct in office,” Steffen Seibert, Merkel’s chief spokesman, told reporters in Berlin on Dec. 14.

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