German president 'regrets' keeping quiet on private loan

15th December 2011, Comments 0 comments

German President Christian Wulff, under pressure over a private loan he received from the wife of a tycoon friend, admitted Thursday he should have come clean earlier about the deal.

Wulff, who as head of state serves as a kind of moral arbiter in German public life, said in a statement that he "regrets" not being more forthcoming about the 500,000-euro ($651,000) loan he accepted in October 2008.

The daily Bild reported Tuesday that he was suspected of concealing from state deputies in February 2010, four months before he became president, the loan from the wife of wealthy businessman Egon Geerkens.

Wulff had responded to an official question put forward by the opposition Greens while he was premier of Lower Saxony state as to whether he had "business ties" with Geerkens or a firm with which Geerkens had dealings.

He had denied such a relationship despite having accepted the loan from Geerkens' wife Edith to buy a home. He made no mention of that arrangement.

The couple are longtime friends of Wulff and extended the loan to him at four-percent interest -- one point lower than the usual bank mortgage rate.

"I recognise that a false impression could be created here. I regret that," Wulff said in a statement Thursday.

"It would have been better if I had mentioned the private contract with Mrs Geerkens beyond the specific questions of the Lower Saxony deputies, as I had and have nothing to hide."

The president, who had on Tuesday issued a statement denying any wrongdoing in connection with his statement to lawmakers, said he would now make all the documents related to the loan available to reporters.

Wulff belongs to Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative Christian Democrats. Her spokesman said Wednesday that he enjoyed the chancellor's "complete trust".

© 2011 AFP

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