German President Christian Wulff has made it clear that he intends to sit tight and wait out the scandal over his personal finances, which has been brewing for over a month. On Thursday, however, his strategy may have suffered a significant setback.
Public prosecutors from Hanover, capital of the German state of Lower Saxony where Wulff was governor before he became president in 2010, asked police officials to raid the offices of Wulff's former spokesman Olaf Glaeseker. He is suspected of corruption and bribery. The offices of event manager Manfred Schmidt, who worked closely with the governor's office during Wulff's time there, were also searched.
Wulff dismissed spokesman Glaeseker shortly before Christmas, though no reason was given for the move. Wulff's office said that Glaeseker had asked to be let go.
Both media reports and official investigations have led to suspicions that Glaeseker had improperly funded a series of conferences called the Nord-Süd Dialogue, or "North-South Dialogue," which Schmidt had organized. The series took place between 2007 and 2009 and were sponsored by Wulff and then-Baden Württemberg Governor Günther Oettinger. In December SPIEGEL reported on allegations that Schmidt earned several hundred thousand euros that had been provided by business sponsors at a single 2009 event.
In return, it is thought that Schmidt made his holiday home available for free to Glaeseker and his wife for three vacations. At the time, Glaeseker was the government spokesman for Lower Saxony and, as a state official, was not allowed to accept such expensive gifts.
There is no indication that Wulff was directly involved in the corruption. State prosecutors say that Wulff is not currently a target of any investigation.
Since mid-December, Wulff has been the focus of questions about a private, €500,000 loan he took from a friend to purchase a house. He is alleged to have misled the Lower Saxony state parliament in 2010 by claiming that he had no business relations with Egon Geerkens, when in fact Geerkens had financed the loan via his wife.
Wulff has faced additional pressure for his failure to fully answer all questions surrounding that loan and other financial benefits he may have derived from his political position. He has also been accused of accepting free vacations at the holiday homes of friends and acquaintances.
The German president has also been blasted for his handling of the affair. In December, he called the tabloid Bild in an effort to prevent an initial story about the home loan. He then was slow to fulfil a public promise he made to publish online his answers to the dozens of questions German media outlets have submitted to his office since the scandal began. Those answers were finally published on Wednesday in the form of a 240-page document.
Despite the beating Wulff has taken in the press, a new survey published on Thursday found that the German public remains split on the question as to whether he should remain in office. Some 46 percent believe he should resign, according to the poll performed by Deutschlandtrend for German public TV station ARD, while 45 percent believe he should remain in office.