German politicians launched a parliamentary inquiry into the collapse of payments firm Wirecard yesterday in an effort to force the government to reveal more about a failure to avert the country's biggest post-war corporate fraud.
The investigation into the implosion of a company once seen as a German success story worth €22.5bn will increase pressure on German chancellor Angela Merkel and her deputy Olaf Scholz ahead of national elections next year.
Wirecard's demise has embarrassed Germany's government, which prides itself on a reputation for rectitude and reliability, amid criticism that authorities ignored red flags.
"This was a fake company," said Fabio De Masi, a German lawmaker who played a key role in launching the inquiry that empowers parliamentarians to interrogate officials and demand information. "We are not getting the answers we need".
The German government has said Ms Merkel brought up Wirecard's planned takeover of a company in China during a visit there in September 2019 and that a senior official in her office subsequently pledged further support to Wirecard.
In an official parliamentary response, it said that Ms Merkel did not know at the time of the irregularities at Wirecard, which is being dismantled after its disclosure of a €1.9bn hole in its accounts in June triggered its insolvency. Mr Scholz is widely tipped as a successor to Ms Merkel when she leaves office.