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No prosecution yet of German President Christian Wulff, yet the scandal deepens

Christian Wulff under fire yet again for cosy relations with businesspeople – and now his wife Bettina is in hot seat.

Germany bettina wulff christian wulff scandalEnlarge
German First Lady Bettina Wulff speaks at her annual reception for foreign diplomats' spouses at Schloss Bellevue palace on January 13, 2012 in Berlin, Germany. Her husband, German President Christian Wulff, is steadfastly refusing to resign despite an ongoing controversy that stems from a personal loan he accepted while governor of Lower Saxony. (Sean Gallup/AFP/Getty Images)

BERLIN — Another day, another revelation about German President Christian Wulff’s private finances. The latest focuses on the allegedly-favorable deal his wife Bettina received when she leased a car last December. 

Yet despite the almost never-ending revelations, the president has also had good news this week, as prosecutors announced that there were no grounds for suspecting that he broke the law.

He may be avoiding the courts, but that doesn’t mean Wulff is out of hot water yet. The Berliner Zeitung reported Wednesday that when Bettina Wulff signed the contract for her Audi Q3, her monthly payment was only 1.2 percent of the recommended retail price of the automobile, whereas the normal rate would be 1.5 percent. Wulff’s lawyer denied the report, saying she had not received a special VIP price.

The paper also reported that the director of the car hire company sent a toy car to the president’s son as a birthday present last May, and in return was invited to the 2012 summer party at the presidential residence, Bellevue Castle.

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It is just the latest story to add to the scandal that has engulfed the president since mid December, when media began reporting on his cosy relations with a number of businessmen. It emerged that while premier of the state of Lower Saxony, Wulff had received a low-interest loan of 500,000 euros ($642,000) from the wife of businessman Egon Geerkens to buy a house.

When asked about it in the state parliament at the time, Wulff denied any business relations with Geerkens, failing to mention the loan. Later Wulff refinanced that first loan with the publically-owned BW Bank for an unusually favorable rate. There followed a string of stories about the Wulffs’ free holidays in the homes of various wealthy people.

While Wulff seemed to survive the first round of the scandal with his reputation somewhat dented, the later revelations have left its severely battered.

News that he had called up and threatened a tabloid editor in an ill-guided attempted to kill the story lead to numerous calls for his resignation.

And over the weekend, the drip-drip of bad news continued, with the media reporting that the president and his wife had been treated to hotel upgrade by a film producer during the 2008 Oktoberfest while he was still Lower Saxony’s premier. Wulff’s lawyer insisted that he had no inkling of the generous gesture. The same producer happened to be one of those who financed the publication of a book about Wulff.

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Nevertheless, Wulff also had some welcome good news Wednesday. The prosecutor's office in Stuttgart said that it would not be pursuing a case against Wulff in connection with the loan from the BW Bank. They announced that there were no reasonable grounds for suspicion of any wrongdoing in connection with the loan.

And he has still has Chancellor Angela Merkel’s backing. After all, it was she who pushed Wulff as her party’s candidate for the presidency back in 2010, after the previous incumbent Horst Köhler suddenly resigned mid-term.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/europe/germany/120118/german-president-christian-wulff-scandal-bettina-wulff