When #Merkel visited China in 2019, she spoke beautifully for the German company #Wirecard. The following year the company broke out in a financial fraud scandal and went bankrupt. The case brought down almost half of Germany’s cabinet, with 3 ministers plus the chancellor questioned by #Parliament https://t.co/JZwtKogpKq
- DW Chinese – Deutsche Welle (@dw_chinese) April 23, 2021
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has defended her campaign on behalf of former Dachs-listed company Wirecard during a trip to China in 2019. “At the time, despite all the press reports, there was no reason to believe that Wirecard had committed serious irregularities,” she said in testimony before an investigative committee of the Bundestag on Friday (April 23). The committee was set up by the Bundestag to investigate the alleged fraud of the financial technology company Wirecard. Merkel made it clear during the hearing that Wirecard is committed to penetrating the Chinese market, which is in line with the German government’s goals. Merkel said that it is normal for the government as well as the head of government to speak up for German economic interests and provide support in bilateral contacts. She stressed that “Wirecard did not enjoy any special treatment during this visit.” During her trip to China in 2019, Chancellor Merkel mentioned the topic of Wirecard’s planned acquisition of the Chinese online payment company AllScore Financial (Shanyinxin) to the Beijing leader. She said the topic was covered during the meeting because of the logic of the development of the matter itself and because it fits in with the German government’s efforts to open up the Chinese market over the years. Merkel noted that, in hindsight, the trip appeared to be a Wirecard trip, “but that was far from the case,” and that the meeting with President Xi Jinping involved many political issues. Last summer, Wirecard admitted to having a €190 million hole in its balance sheet. However, the prosecution is convinced that the company has been tampering with its financial statements since at least 2015, and that the economic auditors have been stamping them without reservation year after year. Merkel said that, in general, “I am responsible for this as federal chancellor”. In doing so, she excused her economic adviser Lars-Hendrik Röller. Röller’s wife was accused of acting as a go-between between Wirecard and a Chinese company, for which Röller himself came under fire. Merkel said she had not the slightest reason to question her trust in Röller. Prior to her trip to China, Chancellor Merkel met with former Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, who is seen as a Wirecard lobbyist. During the hearing, Merkel said that although she did not remember whether Guttenberg specifically mentioned Wirecard during the meeting, it was true that she introduced him to Basil after the conversation. Involved in the Wirecard financial fraud scandal, Merkel said that it is not possible to guarantee 100 percent against criminal schemes, but still all measures should be taken to prevent the recurrence of such situations. Merkel referred to the planned reform of financial supervision. Prior to Chancellor Merkel’s testimony, opposition and SPD figures had issued criticism of her. Danyal Bayaz, the Greens’ representative on the investigation committee, said that although Merkel was “ridden in” by her staff and had no direct responsibility, her performance in the matter was by no means honorable. Citing the example of Chu Guttenberg, she mentioned the existence of a “network of lobbyists and advisers” surrounding Wirecard. Fabio de Masi, a representative of the Left Party, stressed that Merkel had to answer the question: Why is she lobbying for Wirecard with Xi Jinping? A similar statement was made by SPD representative Jens Zimmermann. The SPD’s Federal Finance Minister Olaf Scholz is also under pressure over the scandal. He has testified before the Commission of Inquiry on Thursday and stressed that the government is not responsible for what he sees as a massive fraud. The CDU/CSU and the opposition, on the other hand, hold Scholz politically responsible because Bafin, the federal agency responsible for financial supervision, is under his authority and it should have been able to detect Wirecard’s irregularities. Scholz and his SPD, however, emphasize that it was the auditing firm that was the problem in the first place. However, they also believe that Bafin must be reformed, and on Tuesday, CDU Federal Minister of Economics Peter Altmaier testified before the committee that he did not see any clear failures in the handling of Wirecard by the federal audit regulator Apas.