German Police Search Presidential Offices
Investigators have searched the presidential office of Olaf Glaeseker, the former spokesman of German President Christian Wulff, in a corruption probe. Opposition politicians say the affair poses further embarrassment for the beleaguered president, who is already under fire over his private loan arrangements.
German police took the unprecedented step of searching an office attached to the presidential palace last week in an investigation into the former spokesman of President Christian Wulff.
Wulff dismissed Olaf Glaeseker, his long-time confidant, shortly before Christmas without giving a reason for the move. The firing, however, raised eyebrows, coming as it did amid intense media attention on Wulff's private finances, particularly on the propriety of a home loan he took out from a close friend of his. Chancellor Angela Merkel, who nominated Wulff for the largely ceremonial post as German head of state in 2010, has so far backed him.
Investigators seized documents and computer files during the search of Glaeseker's former office last Thursday, the tabloid Bild am Sonntag reported on Sunday, citing the Hanover public prosecutor's office and Wulff's current spokeswoman, Petra Diroll.
Glaeseker was also Wulff's spokesman when Wulff was still the governor of the German state of Lower Saxony, before he was elected president in June 2010. Glaeseker is accused of having arranged private sponsors for a series of business conferences from 2007 to 2009 organized by an event management firm, and of receiving free flights and vacations from the head of the company, Manfred Schmidt.
There is no indication that Wulff was directly involved in the alleged corruption. Prosecutors say Wulff is not currently a target of any investigation. But opposition politicians said the search of Glaeseker's former office was a further embarrassment for Wulff. In addition to the questionable home loan, Wulff has been accused of taking advantage of a variety of perks and upgrades offered to him by wealthy friends and acquaintances. His efforts to influence press coverage of the scandal have also been heavily criticized.
"It is unbelievable that we now have search operations in the presidential offices," said the chairman of the center-left Social Democrats (SPD), Sigmar Gabriel. He said he could not imagine that Wulff was unaware of Glaeseker's activities while he was governor of Lower Saxony.
Thomas Oppermann, a prominent SPD member of parliament, told Die Welt newspaper on Monday: "The whole affair hasn't just damaged Christian Wulff but the office of the presidency and Germany's image in the world as well."