Merkel dragged into Wirecard scandal after 2019 China business trip


German Chancellor Angela Merkel is under pressure to explain why she discussed payment services firm Wirecard’s access to the Chinese market during a trip to the country last year.

German media reported on Tuesday that Merkel’s chancellery had been informed prior to her visit of concerns about the company, which went bankrupt after a massive hole appeared in its accounts last month.

“On August 23, 2019, the Federal Ministry of Finance passed on various information on the Wirecard case at the emailed request of the chancellery,” the Spiegel news magazine quoted a ministry spokesman as saying.

The ministry “brought the accusations against Wirecard – which were otherwise publicly known – to the attention of the Federal Chancellery at the working level.”

The Finance Ministry did not respond to dpa’s request for comment.

During a trip to China in September 2019, Merkel brought up Wirecard, her spokeswoman said on Monday. The company’s planned entry into the Chinese market was discussed.

Finance Minister Olaf Scholz was made aware on February 19, 2019, that Germany’s Bafin financial regulator was investigating Wirecard for suspected market manipulation, his ministry has said.

Wirecard, a DAX-listed company and former high flyer of the German tech sector, spiralled into crisis when it emerged on June 18 that 1.9 billion euros (2.2 billion dollars) in company assets could not be accounted for.

The scandal has prompted questions about when the German government was first made aware of the allegations and whether its response was adequate.

Scholz, Economy Minister Peter Altmaier and Bafin representatives are to be questioned on the case by a parliamentary finance committee next week.

The hard-left Die Linke opposition party argued on Tuesday that Merkel should also face questioning.

“The Wirecard scandal is getting broader and broader. We are apparently seeing the tip of the iceberg,” Die Linke party leader Katja Kipping said.

“Since the chancellery was involved in the flow of information, Chancellor Merkel must now also face questions about what she knew exactly,” Kipping added.

Fabio De Masi, a leading member of Die Linke in the Bundestag parliament, said he had requested that the committee include Merkel’s chancellery in its special hearing on the issue, scheduled for July 29.

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