German president in loan scandal

GERMAN President Christian Wulff personally called the editor of Bild, the country’s top-selling newspaper, last month and threatened legal action if it published a story on a private home loan he received at cheap interest rates.

Bild confirmed media reports yesterday that the head of state had left a message on its chief editor Kai Diekmann’s voicemail in which he threatened the paper with legal action and expressed outrage about its plans to publish the story.

The paper said Wulff had called back days later to apologise for the “tone and content” of the voice message, without giving further details.

Wulff, a conservative ally of Chancellor Angela Merkel, has faced intense pressure from German media to step down since Bild reported in December that he misled lawmakers in his home state of Lower Saxony over his ties to a wealthy businessman whose wife gave him the €500,000 home loan.

Wulff has since apologised for the loan scandal and received the backing of Ms Merkel and Germany’s top parties. But news that he intervened personally to prevent the Bild story from being published, all while on an official trip to the Gulf, could increase pressure on him, especially as he made a point of speaking out in favour of press freedom when he made his apology last month.

A spokesman for the Association of German Journalists condemned Wulff’s actions yesterday.

Wulff’s problems risk reflecting negatively on Ms Merkel, who pushed for him to get the presidency.

* Reuters

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