German ex-leader to face trial over scandal

German ex-leader to face trial over scandal

BERLIN - Agence France-Presse
German ex-leader to face trial over scandal

Germany’s ex-president Christian Wulff (R) and his wife Bettina Wulff. AFP photo

Germany’s former president Christian Wulff, who resigned amid a scandal last year, will face court on charges of accepting a favor while in office, justice officials said Aug.27.

Wulff, 54, who was Germany’s youngest president and served less than two years in the largely ceremonial job, will become the country’s first former head of state to answer charges in court.

He is accused of having allowed a film producer friend to pick up part of his Munich hotel bill during a 2008 Oktoberfest visit in return for lending support to a film project when he was Lower Saxony’s state premier. Film producer David Groenewold has also been charged on suspicion he paid more than $668 for Wulff and his wife, from whom the ex-president has since separated. Wulff has insisted he did not notice the favor at the time and later repaid the money in cash.

The trial is expected to start on Nov. 1 in Hanover. The charge of accepting favors while in office carries a maximum penalty of three years’ jail and a fine under German law.

The accusations were reduced from the more serious corruption and bribery charges which had been demanded by prosecutors and carry up to five years’ jail. Wulff and Groenewold earlier this year rejected an offer to settle the case with a fine, saying they want to clear their names in court.

At the height of the scandal, Wulff was battered by almost daily media allegations that he had accepted favors, including other holidays and a home loan, from business friends when he was state premier.