I.In the Wirecard Committee, things are going in quick succession this week: Economics Minister Peter Altmaier (CDU) and Digital State Minister Dorothea Bär (CSU) arrive on Tuesday, Justice Minister Christine Lambrecht and Finance State Secretary Jörg Kukies (both SPD) on Wednesday. Olaf Scholz (SPD) has his appearance on Thursday. The grand finale with Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) will follow on Friday.
All in all, more than 80 witnesses will have been squeezed out in tiring question-and-answer sessions with the clock running (each parliamentary group has a fixed quota of minutes per hour) – often this dragged on late into the night. One cannot blame the nine members of the committee for a lack of diligence, but sometimes they can for a lack of stringency.
The duration of the meetings, the redundancies and the mixture of mock naivety and tough tour ultimately brought to light a lot that those affected would have loved to leave in the dark: Wirecard, the supposed economic miracle from Aschheim, the group that acts as a payment service provider for Gambling and porn sites began on the net and made it to the Dax Olympus, has never become serious. The whole thing was built on fraud, a huge house of cards. And everyone fell for it: auditors, prosecutors, financial regulators, federal government. The money laundering control was completely lost in the quicksand of unclear competency assignments. The Ministry of Finance and the Chancellery campaigned for the group in China, which knew how to harness former political figures such as Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg (CSU) and Ole von Beust (CDU) and former top officials for its interests.
Financial regulator error
Investors and banks became victims. You will probably never see the vast majority of the funds you have entrusted to Wirecard again. In addition, confidence in Germany’s financial center, its supervisory bodies and the social market economy has suffered badly. In hundreds of hours of investigation, the committee uncovered a terrifying ignorance and incompetence at all levels. In financial supervision everything went its bureaucratic course – or it didn’t. Whistleblowers didn’t stand a chance. Although there were indications of discrepancies for a long time, the authorities lacked intuition and drive. There are obviously too many civil servants and too few people who have previously earned their money in banks or elsewhere in practice.
There have already been a few resignations, but compared to the first-class scandal, these have so far been second class: The top of the financial supervisory authority Bafin has to say goodbye, the auditor supervision Apas lost its head, the president of the German audit office for accounting resigned, and the auditor EY transferred his Germany boss. Nobody has ever assumed political responsibility. The opposition will do everything possible to expose the deficits in the federal government. In return, the Union and the SPD will protect their people. Scholz is subordinate to the financial supervision Bafin, Altmaier to the supervisory body for auditors Apas.
But since last week at the latest, there has been no talk of a black-red coalition in the nine-member committee. Because the members of the CDU and CSU publicly attacked the finance minister. They accused Scholz of blocking the committee’s work by withholding files. They reminded of the fatal short sale ban imposed by the Bafin, of questionable Wirecard stock deals by some supervisors and a lack of critical distance from the Wirecard company. Ultimately, they asked the SPD candidate for Chancellor to take political responsibility for it – which could only be understood as a polite paraphrase for resignation.
Opposition vs. government
It is foreseeable and perfectly normal that the opposition will use such a committee to present and criticize leading members of the government; that such an attack comes from within the coalition is an affront. The SPD tries to counter this. This Tuesday, the SPD will appear in front of the federal press conference with Jens Zimmermann and Cansel Kiziltepe. The two will probably also fire a few unkinds towards Altmaier and Merkel on the occasion.
Wirecard is an economic and judicial scandal, says Zimmermann, the SPD chairman in the committee. After more than six months, nothing concrete remained of the allegations against the Ministry of Finance. In addition to a high level of criminal energy surrounding the alleged gang leader Markus Braun, the EY auditors play a central role. With their stamp under the balance sheets, they would have strengthened market confidence in Wirecard for years, although they would have known the serious allegations. They looked the other way and got paid for that through further consulting deals. At the same time, the SPD politician emphasizes that the Munich I public prosecutor believed a blackmail story invented by Wirecard that triggered the ban on short sales. The committee will then submit its final report before the summer break.
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