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Former Germany president cleared of corruption charges

A German court on Thursday cleared former president Christian Wulff [official profile; JURIST news archive] of corruption charges that sprang from allegations that he had accepted bribes in exchange for political favors. Judge Frank Rosenow informed the court [Reuters report] of Wulff's acquittal, saying that there was insufficient proof that the former president had accepted illegal payments. Wulff, who has insisted on his innocence since his resignation in 2012, chose to clear his name at trial rather than settle out of court. Prosecutors argued that Wulff, who was premier of the state of Lower Saxony at the time of the alleged offense, allowed a filmmaker to pay for his hotel stay and meals during a visit to the Oktoberfest beer festival in 2008, amounting to about 719 euros, and that he agreed to lobby to provide financial support for a film in exchange. The favors that led to the corruption charges were accepted two years before he began his 20-month presidential term.

In November Wulff went on trial [JURIST report] in Hanover, denying allegations of corruption. German Chancellor Angela Merkel [official website, in German] selected Wulff to fill the largely ceremonial role of president in 2010. In 2011 German media sources accused Wulff of accepting a €500,000 (USD $650,000) low interest home loan from the wife of German businessman Egon Geerkens. Wulff reportedly gave false statements [BBC report] about the loan in front of parliament, leading to his resignation in February 2012. Corruption has been an issue in Germany in the past. In 2007 Germany introduced draft legislation [JURIST report] to tighten anti-corruption laws on the heels of scandals at Volkswagen AG and Siemens AG. The law sought to increase public prosecutors' power to investigate corruption of a broader range of implicated employees, and to allow employees of foreign corporations to be indicted in Germany.

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