German president tried to block home loan story: reports

2nd January 2012, Comments 0 comments

German President Christian Wulff came under renewed fire Monday after reports said he tried to stop a newspaper revealing details of a private home loan that has prompted widespread criticism.

Wulff allegedly rang the chief editor of the mass circulation Bild daily on December 12, a day before the paper broke the story about the 500,000-euro ($651,000) loan, the Sueddeutsche Zeitung said Monday.

Unable to speak directly to the editor, Wulff left an angry answerphone message threatening to break all contact with the paper's publishers if the "unbelievable" story appeared, the report said.

He was reported to have made the call from Kuwait during an official tour of the Gulf and said that if the paper wanted to "wage war" they could talk about it on his return, the Sueddeutsche said.

Wulff also reportedly threatened legal action against Bild journalists, the Sueddeutsche added.

He later again contacted the chief editor of Bild, which has not reported the phone message, expressing regret for the initial phone call, the newspaper said.

Wulff, 52, made a statement on December 22 admitting he should have come clean to Lower Saxony state deputies in February 2010, four months before becoming president, about the loan from the wife of wealthy businessman Egon Geerkens.

He had responded to an official question put forward by the opposition Greens while he headed the northern state as to whether he had "business ties" with Geerkens or a firm with which Geerkens had dealings.

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

Further media reports focused Monday on a loan Wulff received from a regional bank.

Wulff played a major role in concluding an agreement for German carmaker Volkswagen to take over Porsche at a time of financial difficulty for the sportscar maker.

Press reports alleged he received the loan on preferential terms as a thank-you for his involvement, as Porsche was one of the bank's clients.

Wulff, however, told Der Spiegel weekly there "was no conflict of interests whatsoever."

Although the presidency is largely a ceremonial role, the president acts as a kind of moral compass for the country.

© 2012 AFP

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