German Health Minister in spotlight over mask contract with husband’s firm

Germany's health minister came under the spotlight Sunday over reports that his husband's company sold masks to the ministry, as a row over mask contracts dogging Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives refused to die down.

German Health Minister in spotlight over mask contract with husband's firm
Jens Spahn. Photo: dpa | Michael Kappeler

Spiegel Online reported that the health ministry run by Jens Spahn bought 570,000 masks from a company called Burda last year.

Spahn’s husband, Daniel Funke, runs Burda’s Berlin office.

A spokesman from Burda told Spiegel that the company had helped to procure masks in April last year, when governments across the world were desperately scrambling to get hold of the mouth and nose covering.

The spokesman added that Funke was neither involved nor implicated in the deal.

READ MORE: Merkel’s party slumps in polls as mask purchase scandal widens

Contacted by AFP, a health ministry spokesman said the contract with Burda “was concluded and carried out after the reception of offers in a standardised process at market prices”.

The report came as several MPs in Merkel’s CDU party and Bavarian sister party CSU were hit by a series of damaging graft allegations just six months ahead of general elections.

Bavaria’s former justice minister Alfred Sauter on Sunday gave up all his posts in the CSU party, after he came under investigation over corruption claims related to masks procurement contracts. Sauter has denied all claims.

A string of resignations

Meanwhile, CSU lawmaker Georg Nuesslein was last month placed under investigation for corruption following accusations that he accepted around 600,000 euros to lobby for a mask supplier.

A similar controversy embroiled CDU lawmaker Nikolas Loebel, whose company allegedly pocketed 250,000 euros in commissions for acting as an intermediary in mask contracts.

On Thursday, Tobias Zech, a member of the Bundestag for the CSU Bavarian sister party of Merkel’s CDU, became the latest in a string of MPs to resign over corruption allegations.

Zech had carried out paid PR work for a political party in Macedonia hortly after he was elected to the Bundestag in 2016, according to Der
Spiegel weekly. 

The graft claims have cost the conservatives dearly.

With the first allegations erupting in the run-up to two key regional elections in the states of Baden-Wuerttemberg and Rhineland-Palatinate this month, voters punished the conservatives and handed them their worst-ever results in both states.

The conservatives are now polling at just 29 percent nationally, their lowest level of support for a year and below the 32.9 percent they secured in the 2017 elections, according to a survey published by the ARD broadcaster on

SEE ALSO: What you need to know about Germany’s face mask scandal

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Germany’s centre-right CDU to elect new leadership by end of the year

German Chancellor Angela Merkel's CDU party will elect its new leadership by the year's end, general secretary Paul Ziemiak said Monday, detailing plans for a clean slate after a disastrous election that the party lost to the Social Democrats.

Chancellor Angela Merkel and CDU leader Armin Laschet on the election campaign trail in Aachen before the election.
Chancellor Angela Merkel and CDU leader Armin Laschet on the election campaign trail in Aachen before the election. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Federico Gambarini

In power for 16 years under Merkel, the Christian Democratic Union is grappling with its deepest crisis in decades after turning in a historic low score in September’s election.

Its leader Armin Laschet last week signalled his readiness to step aside, setting the ball rolling for renewal at the top.

READ ALSO: Laschet signals he’s ready to step down as CDU leader

Ziemiak said a date for the congress to determine the new makeup of the party’s top brass as well as how rank and file members can participate in the leadership selection process will be announced on November 2nd.

But the party’s leaders “today agreed unanimously that we will elect a completely new executive board,” he said, adding that in terms of the calendar, the “window for this is year’s end”.

Bild daily had reported that the party has made a tentative booking for December 6th-13th in Dresden for its possible congress.

READ ALSO: Germany edges a step closer to a government led by Social Democrats

Laschet, who is state premier of Germany’s most populous region North Rhine-Westphalia, was elected head of the CDU in January.

For some time, he was the clear favourite to succeed Merkel, who is bowing out of politics after running four consecutive coalitions.

But his party’s ratings began to slide as he committed a series of gaffes, including being caught on camera laughing in the background during a solemn tribute to flood victims.

With the CDU’s ratings plunging, Merkel tried to boost Laschet’s campaign with joint appearances, but was unable to help the conservatives pull off a win on election day.