The German parliament is to hold a full inquiry into the collapse of Wirecard amid mounting questions as to why the government failed to prevent the biggest corporate fraud in the country’s postwar history.
The decision ensures that the Wirecard affair will dominate German politics in the lead-up to next year’s Bundestag elections and could cast a shadow over Chancellor Angela Merkel’s final months in power.
Opposition MPs have claimed that the authorities were more focused on protecting a company seen as one of Germany’s few tech superstars than in properly investigating widely reported financial irregularities at the company.
Questions have also been raised as to why Ms Merkel lobbied for Wirecard in China during an official trip last year when reports of suspicious activity at the company had already been circulating for months.
An inquiry could also prove embarrassing for Olaf Scholz, finance minister, whose ministry oversees BaFin, the financial markets watchdog, as well as the Financial Intelligence Unit, Germany’s anti-money laundering agency. Both are accused of ignoring countless warning signs at Wirecard.
The disgraced payments company filed for insolvency in June after saying that a quarter of its balance sheet did not exist. It later collapsed under €3.5bn of debt.
The decision to pursue a full inquiry came after a series of hearings of the Bundestag’s finance committee, which spent hours grilling Mr Scholz and economy minister Peter Altmaier.
“An investigative committee is inevitable in order to acquire full access to the files,” said Fabio De Masi, an MP for the hard-left Die Linke party. “There are still open questions which concern the chancellor’s lobbying for Wirecard in China, the role of the financial watchdog and of the law enforcement authorities and regional government in Bavaria.”
“Over several months, the government has not succeeded in comprehensively and thoroughly clearing up the Wirecard scandal, despite special sessions [of the finance committee], parliamentary questions and lots of opportunities,” said Danyal Bayaz, a Green MP. “There are still a lot of questions and inconsistencies. That’s why we need an investigative committee, with a clear mission.”
Opposition MPs from the liberal Free Democratic party, Die Linke and the rightwing populist Alternative for Germany had long called for a parliamentary inquiry. But it was not until the Greens backed their demand that advocates of a full investigation had enough votes to prevail.
The idea of an inquiry was opposed by Ms Merkel’s bloc, the CDU-CSU, and their junior partner in government, the Social Democrats.
Mr Bayaz said the inquiry was a “chance to win back the trust of investors that has been lost” due to Wirecard. He said it could help to create “rules for a functioning, sustainable financial market of the future, that serves the common good”.