Berlin under fire for trying to interfere with Wirecard investigation

The German Ministry of Finance has been criticized for attempting to secretly intervene in the interrogation of key witnesses during the parliamentary investigation of Wirecard, which may violate parliamentary etiquette.

The collapse of this German payment company last summer had an impact on Germany’s financial and political elites. The parliamentary investigation revealed a number of regulatory errors and led to the departure of the heads of the three regulatory agencies.

A few days before the final debate in the parliament on the final report of the committee on Friday, the Ministry of Finance revealed that one of its senior officials was trying to be tried by Munich’s chief prosecutor Hildegard Bäumler-Hösl Before intervening in investigative work, he was a key witness.

The government revealed this in a written reply to a question raised by Fabio De Masi, a member of the far-left Die Linke party seen by the Financial Times.

The ministerial official was not named, but it can be determined by the description of his role. He is Reinhard Wolpers, the head of the financial market stability department. Wolpers is one of three Treasury employees who are members of the BaFin Administration Committee. The Ministry of Finance declined to comment on his identity.

In preparation for the questioning of Bäumler-Hösl in January, Wolpers approached Elisabeth Roegele, BaFin’s then vice president, and asked her to ask Bäumler-Hösl questions, who then forwarded them to the MPs.

The government has no constitutional role in the investigation. Parliament is conducting an investigation and has powers similar to courts. In addition, Rogler was also nominated as a witness and had not yet been questioned by members of Congress. In late January, she was forced to quit her job by the government along with President Felix Hufeld.

“The werewolf’s behavior was clearly against the regulations,” Demasi told the Financial Times, adding that the government official “lacked respect for the Bundestag.”

BaFin and Munich prosecutors have been involved in a controversial 2019 short-selling ban accusation game, which investors believe is a vote of confidence in the disgraceful company. BaFin imposed the injunction after receiving information from the Munich prosecutor about the alleged imminent short-sale attack on Wirecard.

Several BaFin employees told MPs that the Munich prosecutors have stated that the information is highly credible. Bäumler-Hösl denied this and stated that she only passed it on to BaFin, but did not comment on its validity.

The short-selling ban may be harmful to the German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz, who was the candidate for the Social Democratic Chancellor in the September federal election.

The Ministry of Finance publicly condemned the short-selling ban by the regulator, saying it was based on poor and inadequate analysis.

The ministry’s response to De Masi revealed that Wolpers contacted Roegele via email and text message a few days before Bäumler-Hösl testified. The ministry stated that Walpers “acted on his own initiative and did not coordinate with other employees of the Ministry of Finance.” It added that the administrative level “never” was informed of the behavior, but only because of Demasi’s investigation did it become known about it.

“Communication [our] Ms. Roegele’s employees ultimately had no results because Ms. Roegele did not submit any suggestions on such issues,” the ministry said, adding that “no information” was passed on to members of the investigation committee of the ministry.

Green MP Lisa Paus stated that “the power of the Ministry of Finance” has been abused for the political interests of the Social Democratic Party. “That will never work.”

Florian Toncar, the pro-business Liberal Democrat MP, said that if Wolpers’ actions “have not been approved or even demanded by the top officials of the ministry,” it would be “very surprising”.

SPD investigative representative Jens Zimmermann stated that he could not comment on the department’s internal procedures, “because I don’t have any insights. [into them]”And added that his only contact was with the official representatives of the ministry on the committee. “I have not received any suggestions regarding potential problems with Ms. Bäumler-Hösl,” Zimmermann said.

Wolpers and Roegele did not respond to requests for comment from the Financial Times. The Munich prosecutor declined to comment.

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