Unfair Advantages: Former German President To Be Tried

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Then Lower Saxony Governor Christian Wulff and his wife Bettina and film financier David Groenewold (center) attended Oktoberfest together in 2008. Zoom
DPA

Then Lower Saxony Governor Christian Wulff and his wife Bettina and film financier David Groenewold (center) attended Oktoberfest together in 2008.

A court in Germany has decided to move forward with a trial against the country's former president. Christian Wulff must now answer to lesser charges of accepting unfair advantages. The politician is hoping a verdict can clear his name.

Former German President Christian Wulff is to be tried on charges of accepting unfair advantages this autumn in a regional court in Hanover. Both Wulff, who resigned as Germany's head of state in February 2012, and film financier David Groenewold will be defendants in the trial, SPIEGEL was told by justice sources.

Proscecutors had initially charged Wulff with bribery and corruption in April, but the court reduced the charges to the lesser allegation of accepting unfair advantages.

The investigation into Wulff had been a vast one, comprising four state prosecutors, up to 24 police officers, 20,000 pages of documentation and more than 100 witnesses. But the further the investigation continued into Wulff, the smaller the case against him became.

What remained suspicious in the end was a trip Wulff took to Munich's Oktoberfest in 2008. Prosecutors claim that film producer Groenewold covered €719.40 ($959.84) of the expense of Wulff's room at the five-star Bayerischer Hof hotel and also picked up his child care costs. Shortly thereafter, as governor of the state of Lower Saxony, Wulff wrote a letter on official state letterhead requesting support on Groenewold's behalf from Siemens for the distribution of the film "John Rabe," in which the German engineering giant plays a prominent role. Prosecutors believe Wulff's actions constitute a criminal offence.

Addressing the stay at the hotel, prosecutors in April stated: "It seems sufficiently likely that this happened with the intent to motivate Wulff to solicit support from Siemens for distribution of the movie 'John Rabe'. One day after the Oktoberfest visit, Groenewold asked Wulff to contact the Siemens Chief Executive Officer Peter Löscher."

Prosecutors Sought Deal

But even prosecutors had hoped to avoid going to court in a case involving a sum of less than €800. They offered to drop the case if the two defendants paid a fine. But it was an offer both Wulff and Groenewold rejected. Both maintain their innocence and would like to see their positions confirmed by a court.

Wulff, who was long a close ally of conservative Chancellor Angela Merkel, stepped down from office just over a year ago under allegations that he had taken loans to purchase a home in his home state under highly favorable terms. After leaving office, prosecutors in Lower Saxony charged him with bribery relating to the Oktoberfest trip with Groenewold.

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1. Why can't my country do this with Tony Blair?
greanknight 08/27/2013
Why can't my country do this with Tony Blair? Unfair advantages, war crimes, crimes against humanity, from what I read there is lots of evidence and lots of allegations for guilt, and perhaps there is evidence of innocence as well. Why can't we have his guilt or innocence determined by an impartial court? (For a PM or ex-PM, I believe an international court is necessary to have impartiality.) I suspect the reason why is that Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democratic party leaders do not want the standards of behaviour of British prime ministers raised above the criminal level.
2. Is there a market for justice?
Inglenda2 08/27/2013
German justice is a theme of its own! The more prominent one is, so much less the likelihood of being punished for crimes committed. There is a very cynical adage in Germany “hang the poor and let the others go free.” This would very often describe the way in which the normal population is dealt with compared with the so-called upper ten thousand. The only difference to the British class system, of the 18th century, and that of Germany now, is that nobody really knows who is pulling the strings in the background. The judges however, being themselves members of the higher income groups, are unlikely to take any great efforts to change the situation. For an outside neutral observer, it would appear that justice can be bought by those who have enough cash and the right friends.
3. Milestone of Sorts
Jim in MD 08/27/2013
This and Zschaepe's trial are positive signs that Germans no longer view themselves as above the law, despite the chancellor's finger-pointing at Southern Europe. It is troubling that Germany's various organs all have such strong political biases. My hope is that paranoia doesn't tear the country apart.
4. And why can't MY country do this with George W. Bush?!
satanslefthand@gmail.com 08/28/2013
Let's add Cheney, Karl Rove and his other pals to that list. They are all war criminals! - Doro
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