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Berlin under fire for trying to interfere with Wirecard investigation

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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 once-popular German payment company went bankrupt last summer, impacting Germany’s financial and political elites. A painful parliamentary investigation exposed multiple regulatory errors and led to the departure of the heads of 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 British 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 minister-level 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.

Before interrogating Bäumler-Hösl in January, Wolpers approached Elisabeth Roegele, BaFin’s vice president at the time, and asked her to ask Bäumler-Hösl questions, who then forwarded them to members of parliament.

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 are involved in a controversial game of accusation of the 2019 short-selling ban, 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 impending short-sale attack against 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 without commenting 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-sale ban imposed 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 act, 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, a pro-business Liberal Democrat MP, said it would be “very surprising” if Wolpers’ actions “have not been approved or even demanded by the ministry’s senior leadership”.

The head of the SPD investigation, Jens Zimmermann, said he could not comment on the department’s internal procedures, “because I don’t have any opinions. [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 a request for comment from the Financial Times. The Munich prosecutor declined to comment.

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