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German lawmakers seek to grill Merkel over Wirecard scandal

German lawmakers say they plan to question Chancellor Angela Merkel and her deputy, Finance Minister Olaf Scholz, about their involvement with the collapsed payment systems provider Wirecard next month.

Members of the parliamentary committee set up to investigate the Wirecard scandal said Wednesday that the long-time chancellor will be summoned to testify on April 23, a day after Scholz, the center-left Social Democrats' candidate to succeed Merkel in this fall's national election.

Wirecard filed for protection from creditors through insolvency proceedings in June after admitting that 1.9 billion euros ($2.3 billion) supposedly held in trust accounts in the Philippines probably didn't exist.

FILE - In this July 20, 2021 file photo, the logo of payment company Wirecard is pictured at the headquarters in Munich, Germany. German lawmakers say they plan to question Chancellor Angela Merkel and her deputy about their involvement with the collapsed payment systems provider Wirecard next month. (AP PhotoMatthias Schrader, File)

Opposition lawmaker accused authorities — from financial supervisors to prosecutors and auditors — of looking the other way despite reports of irregularities at Wirecard dating back at least five years.

“We in Germany have a culture of non-responsibility, of looking mainly at who has jurisdiction and who doesn't have jurisdiction, and not thinking enough about the bigger picture,” said Florian Toncar, a lawmaker for the pro-business Free Democratic Party. “Our impression, by the way, is that it gets worse the higher up the hierarchy you go.”

Merkel will face questions about her lobbying for Wirecard’s entry into the Chinese market during a 2019 trip to China.

File - In this Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2020 file photo German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz arrives for a budget debate as part of a meeting of the German federal parliament, Bundestag, at the Reichstag building in Berlin, Germany. German lawmakers say they plan to question Chancellor Angela Merkel and her deputy about their involvement with the collapsed payment systems provider Wirecard next month. (AP PhotoMichael Sohn, file)

Toncar said Scholz, who has pledged to reform Germany's financial supervisory agency, BaFin, should publicly apologize to Financial Times journalist Dan McCrum, who played a key role in exposing the company's questionable accounting but himself was investigated on suspicion of violating securities laws until prosecutors dropped the probe.

Left Party lawmaker Fabio De Masi said the government also faces questions over the involvement of former Austrian and German intelligence officials in the case.

The fugitive former chief operating officer of Wirecard, Jan Marsalek, was reported to have been an informant for Austrian intelligence agency BVT and may have received help from former spies in fleeing to Belarus.

FILE - In this Thursday, April 25, 2019 file photo, Markus Braun, CEO of financial services company wirecard, attends the earnings press conference in Munich, Germany. German lawmakers say they plan to question Chancellor Angela Merkel and her deputy about their involvement with the collapsed payment systems provider Wirecard next month. (AP PhotoMatthias Schrader, file)

Interpol issued a so-called red notice for Marsalek last year on allegations of “violations of the German duty on securities act and the securities trading act, criminal breach of trust (and) especially serious case of fraud.”