Merkel: Didn’t give Wirecard any special treatment

She is the most prominent witness in the Wirecard investigative committee: Chancellor Merkel justifies the advocacy for Wirecard during a trip to China as a normal process. There was “no special treatment”.

Et is the Chancellor, but her interrogation begins as usual with the question of name, age, place of residence. Angela Dorothea Merkel, the highest witness in terms of protocol in the Wirecard committee, gives this information unmoved for the record before she describes her personal points of contact with the scandalous company at the beginning of the interrogation.

The Federal Chancellor initially presented the status quo in June 2020 from her point of view soberly and calmly. It is therefore about the accounting scandal that has become apparent and the ensuing bankruptcy. According to the CDU politician, this was not comparable to the situation in September 2019 – at that time, on a visit to Beijing, the Chancellor addressed the wish of the payment processor from Aschheim to enter the Chinese market.

This was preceded by a meeting in the Chancellery with Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg (CSU) with Merkel, who with his company Spitzberg Partners was in the service of the Dax group. The left-wing politician Fabio de Masi said before the meeting on Friday that Merkel had to answer the question of why she lobbied for Wirecard with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Merkel: The Federal Government regularly advocates for companies

“It goes without saying for me to respond to requests from earlier members of my cabinet,” Merkel explains to the members of the committee of inquiry. She has no recollection that Guttenberg mentioned Wirecard’s interest in the Chinese company Allscore Financial at the meeting. But that is also “not essential”. It is correct, however, that she referred Guttenberg to her economic advisor Lars-Hendrik Röller after the conversation.

According to Merkel, there is no question that the federal government has to regularly engage in contacts with other countries “for our companies”. Of course, this also applies to China. At the same time, the CDU politician emphasizes: Wirecard did not receive any special treatment on the trip to Beijing.

“Despite all the press reports, there was no reason to assume serious irregularities at Wirecard,” said Merkel. In retrospect, one must certainly see it differently. The government must now do everything possible to prevent a similar case in the future. For this, the financial supervisory authority Bafin will be reorganized, it will get more competencies. In addition, the auditors would be more strictly regulated.

Probably at most a footnote

The question and answer session is always about Guttenberg and the subsequent visit to Beijing. “In retrospect, it looks like the trip to China was a Wirecard trip. That is far from it, ”emphasizes Merkel. There were many companies involved, and there were also numerous other topics.

Merkel describes in detail the working methods and division of labor in the Chancellery. She herself has the principle never to promise anything directly if something is asked of her anywhere. A typical answer would then be that she takes care of it. The FDP politician Florian Toncar asks you whether economic advisor Röller has reported your conflicts of interest? “No” is Merkel’s short answer. If his wife initiates a business deal and her employees pass this request on, one has to clarify that, insisted the FDP MP.

But the Chancellor cannot be lured further from the reserve on this point. She keeps saying that she trusts her employee. The SPD chairman in the committee, Jens Zimmermann, with reference to a note from her house, asked how she came to the statement that the Chancellery was not aware of the allegations against Wirecard. Merkel replied that you spoke carefully about serious irregularities. Of course, material was also received from the Ministry of Finance and questions were exchanged.

Unlike Finance Minister Olaf Scholz (SPD), who had to answer questions from the members of the committee the day before, Merkel did not have much to lose with her testimony in the investigative committee. While he wants to conquer the Chancellery for the SPD, the incumbent no longer runs. Your mention of Wirecard in Beijing will probably remain a footnote in retrospect on your 16 years in the most important state office.