(Bloomberg) — Wirecard AG had repeated contact with Angela Merkel’s chancellery in the months before its collapse, according to a chronology of events by her office.
Merkel has come under pressure to clarify her interactions with the digital payments company after the chancellery confirmed that the German leader promoted Wirecard during a trip to China in September 2019 after her office was informed of ongoing investigations.
Opposition lawmakers are threatening to call for a parliamentary investigation as they press Merkel’s administration over how it pursued fraud allegations against Wirecard, a member of Germany’s benchmark DAX index.
Underscoring the impact of the scandal, the finance committee in Germany’s lower house of parliament plans to interrupt the summer recess to hold a special session on July 29 to discuss the firm’s collapse. Finance Minister Olaf Scholz and Economy Minister Peter Altmaier have been invited.
Munich prosecutors on Wednesday scheduled an ad hoc press conference to inform about the “latest developments” in their Wirecard probe. The investigators declined to say beforehand what the announcement will be. The press conference is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. local time.
Here’s a time line of interactions between the German government and Wirecard as laid out by the chancellery:
Nov. 19, 2018: Digitalization czar Dorothee Baer visited Wirecard’s offices in AschheimNov. 27, 2018: Wirecard’s then-CEO Markus Braun requested a meeting with Merkel and her chief of staffJan. 22, 2019: Merkel’s office turned down the request and instead offered an appointment with Merkel’s economic adviser Lars-Hendrik Roeller, which Braun canceledAug. 23, 2019: Finance Ministry relays information to Roeller about Wirecard, including market-manipulation probes, in preparation for a meeting with a company representativeSept. 3, 2019: As part of preparations for a trip to China, Merkel meets Wirecard representative Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, a former defense minister who resigned in disgrace over plagiarism. Guttenberg follows up with an email about Wirecard’s plans to acquire Chinese company Allscore Financial to gain a license in the Asian countrySept. 5-7, 2019: Merkel mentions Wirecard’s plans during her trip to China. “At the time of her trip she had no knowledge of possibly severe irregularities at Wirecard,” the chancellery said, adding that the company wasn’t part of the delegationSept. 8, 2019: Roeller informs Wirecard of the discussion and offers additional followup. He asked for and had contact with Germany’s ambassador in Beijing and China’s ambassador in Berlin about Germany’s economic interests in China, but didn’t further follow up on the Allscore acquisitionSept. 11, 2019: Roeller has meet and greet with Wirecard officials, who speak broadly about Asian activitiesMay 20, 2020: Braun holds a telephone discussion with Roeller. He rejects press reports of accounting irregularities and promises a thorough clarification.June 10, 2020: As the head of a DAX company, Braun takes part in a video conference about Germany’s coronavirus tracking app with MerkelJune 30, 2020: Merkel informed of the accounting scandal and Wirecard’s insolvency
Asked whether Roeller should have warned Merkel about Wirecard before her China trip, Merkel’s deputy spokeswoman Ulrike Demmer said on Wednesday: “If we had known what we know today about a financial scandal which led to the bankruptcy of a DAX company, this is true, but the knowledge at that point of time was a different one.”
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