BERLIN – More watchdog funding and more Wirecard revelations

Following the on-going revelations from the Wirecard scandal, German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz (SPD) wants more funding for the country’s financial oversight agency (BaFin). “I want a more powerful agency,” he told the newspaper Die Zeit on Wednesday (22 July).

The comments are the latest criticism of BaFin, as many have wondered how the agency had overseen the €2 billion missing from Wirecard’s balance sheets. Scholz’s proposals hit directly on this question, as he called for improving BaFin’s auditors.

“How can it be that highly qualified, excellently trained and expensively paid auditors of a company that has been auditing Wirecard’s financial statements for almost ten years have not noticed anything of all the fraud that is now apparent,” said Scholz.

However, these calls come after last weekend’s revelations that the German government lobbied on behalf of Wirecard in September 2019, seven months after Scholz learned of BaFin’s investigations into the company.

Now, further contacts have come to light.

On Wednesday (22 July), weekly newspaper Der Spiegel published an article claiming: “The German government maintained significantly more contacts with […] Wirecard than it has so far admitted to parliament and the media.”

Such contacts include former Federal Commissioner for Intelligence Services, Klaus-Dieter Fritsche, who lobbied the chancellery for a meeting to discuss the company. This ultimately took place between Fritsche, the head of the economic and financial department, Lars-Hendrik Röller, and a member of Wirecard’s board in September 2019.

Scholz and Economy Minister Peter Altmaier (CDU) will answer questions on this subject before the Bundestag’s Finance Committee next Wednesday (29 July).

Die Linke also petitioned to include the chancellery in the proceedings, but this was rejected by the grand coalition. (Sarah Lawton | EURACTIV.de)

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