German Finance Minister’s Bank Ties Under Preliminary Investigation
German Finance Minister Christian Lindner is facing allegations that he developed close ties to a private bank that provided a mortgage for his luxury home.
Berlin prosecutors said they were considering whether to open a corruption investigation into what may have been a conflict of interest.
Lindner gave a speech on the 100anniversary of BBBank, a Karlsruhe-based retail bank, in May 2022, but he allegedly failed to disclose that he had received a mortgage from the institution.
After the taped address – which was pre-recorded and played at the bank’s general meeting – he then took out another loan from the same bank, German media widely reported.
Before becoming a minister, Lindner received payments of tens of thousands of euros for giving speeches at evening events organized by the bank.
Berlin’s attorney general released a statement saying he had opened a “preliminary investigation” into whether Lindner’s parliamentary immunity should be lifted.
If this were to happen, the prosecutor could open a full investigation into the case. Such pre-investigation inquiries are normal in Germany. The prosecutor’s statement stressed that it would be wrong to conclude that Lindner was suspected of having committed a crime.
Lindner’s attorney, Christian Schertz, responded to the allegations by denying them. “Mr Lindner started the process of financing his property long before he took office as finance minister,” he told German media. “All terms were still in line with existing market conditions.”
Schertz added that Lindner’s speech at the bank on his birthday was “consistent with the regular discharge of a minister’s duties.” There is no connection between the two events.
The allegations came to light last autumn when German media reported that Lindner had bought a villa in the south-west Berlin district of Nikolassee in January 2021 for 1.65 million euros (£1.45 million ), and in order to renovate the property had taken out a mortgage with BBBank for 2.35 M€.
Lindner, 44, who has been leader of the business-friendly Free Democrats (FDP) since 2013 and finance minister since his party entered a three-party coalition government at the end of 2021, had participated in the events of the BBBank as a party leader and as an MP before becoming a minister.
He had received payments of tens of thousands of euros for giving speeches at parties organized by the bank.
Schertz said the activities were carried out “in accordance with all rules of the German parliament”. He said they were reported and published in accordance with the Bundestag’s transparency rules. The video message follows a request submitted by the bank to the Ministry of Finance, he added.
The Finance Ministry said Lindner complied with the requirement to provide details of his financial interests when he became minister.
A ministry spokesman declined to say whether Lindner himself told the ministry or the bank about his mortgage before accepting the invitation to address his general meeting.
The anti-corruption organization Transparency International Germany welcomed the preliminary investigation. “A rule of law must – and especially in the case of a government minister – take a careful and critical look,” his lawyer Wolfgang Jäckle told the media organization Funke Mediengruppe.
Daniel Mittler, head of the citizens’ lobby group Finanzwende (Financial Transition), urged Lindner to disclose the terms of his mortgage “to dispel any suspicion that he might have been treated favorably”.
Government colleagues said they did not want to comment on the specific case, but offered supportive remarks to Lindner. SPD co-leader Lars Klingbeil said: “We have a close and trusting working relationship with Herr Lindner.”
Lindner’s party MP Wolfgang Kubicki called the allegations “completely absurd” and accused the Berlin judiciary of “lack of character and infringement of personal rights”.
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