Suspect arrested in Germany’s ‘face mask scandal’

Suspect arrested in Germany's 'face mask scandal'
A mask lies on the ground in Berlin. Photo: DPA
German investigators have arrested a suspect in connection with the "mask affair" corruption scandal involving several politicians from Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative alliance, prosecutors said Thursday.

The suspect, who was not named, has been detained and investigators have seized “extensive” assets belonging to them, the public prosecutor’s office in Munich said.

The suspect, named by German media as businessman Thomas Limberger, was detained and investigators seized “extensive” assets belonging to him, the public prosecutor’s office in Munich said.

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

Several politicians from Merkel’s CDU-CSU bloc have been implicated in the  “mask affair” which has seen them accused of profiting directly or indirectly  from procurement contracts.

Limberger is accused of arranging mask deals and processing payments  through his network of companies, according to Der Spiegel and the Augsburger  Allgemeine newspaper.

Munich prosecutors are investigating a total of five suspects in connection with the scandal, which has contributed to plummeting support for Merkel’s conservatives six months before general elections.

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

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

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Löbel gave up his mandate, while Nüßlein has left the CDU/CSU parliamentary group.

Bavaria’s former justice minister Alfred Sauter is also under investigation and has resigned from all his posts in the CSU party. He denies all allegations against him.

The affair erupted in the run-up to two key regional elections in the states of Baden-Württemberg and Rhineland-Palatinate this month, with the conservatives scoring their worst ever results in both states.

READ ALSO: Merkel’s conservatives suffer heavy losses in two German state elections

With the conservatives moving to clean up their ranks, MPs have since also come forward over conflicts of interest beyond the “mask affair”.

Mark Hauptmann, a CDU lawmaker from the eastern German state of Thuringia, gave up his mandate over accusations that he had received payments from foreign governments such as Azerbaijan to lobby for them.

And Tobias Zech, a member of the Bundestag for the CSU, resigned over paid PR work allegedly carried out for a political party in Macedonia.

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