Pressure builds on German President for trying to suppress loan scandal article

 

Berlin

The increasingly tarnished reputation of Germany's President, Christian Wulff suffered a new setback yesterday with disclosures that the 52-year-old head of state threatened to sue a leading tabloid newspaper to prevent publication of a damaging article about a questionable six-figure private loan.

Mr Wulff, a conservative who was personally chosen by the Chancellor, Angela Merkel, for the largely titular job of president in 2010, has come under increasing pressure in recent weeks over a €500,000 (£417,000) loan made to him by the wife of a private investor to finance a family home.

But the intensity of the row rose dramatically yesterday after it emerged that, while on an official visit to Kuwait last month, Mr Wulff made an explosive and threatening telephone call to the editor of the Bild newspaper, Kai Diekmann.

Süddeutsche Zeitung was one of two newspapers to report that after failing to reach Mr Diekmann in person, Mr Wulff had left an angry message on his voicemail threatening legal action and a "final break" with Bild and its publisher, Springer Verlag, unless the paper dropped plans to publish an article about the loan.

The president was also said to have used the term "wage war" in his message and stressed that as far as he and his wife were concerned, the Bild article "crossed the Rubicon". Bild, however, went ahead and published the article the following day, 13 December.

Contacted yesterday, Mr Wulff's office refused to respond to the reports and insisted: "The federal president refuses on principle to provide any information about telephone calls or personal conversations."

Der Spiegel magazine reported yesterday that Mr Wulff had also telephoned Matthias Döpfner, Springer's chief executive, and asked him to intervene. Mr Döpfner was said to have told the president that he could not interfere in editorial judgements.

The Bild article provoked a deluge of criticism after it revealed that Mr Wulf had received a loan from the wife of Egon Geerkens, a wealthy investor friend, in order to finance his house.

Bild alleged that the loan indicated that Mr Wulff, previously the prime minister of the state of Lower Saxony, had not told the whole truth when asked by the state parliament in 2010 whether he had business links with Mr Geerkens. It later emerged that he and his wife took part in the loan negotiations.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Home Care / Support Workers

£7 - £10 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This care provider is looking for Home ...

Recruitment Genius: Web Team Leader

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's leading web des...

Recruitment Genius: Client Manager

£27000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A growing, successful, friendly...

Recruitment Genius: Property Negotiator - OTE £20,000+

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This family owned, independent ...

Day In a Page

The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'