Mask affair: More than warning words?



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Status: October 21, 2021 7:10 p.m.

A testimony from Minister Spahn puts ex-CSU MP Nüßlein in distress. According to information from WDR, NDR and SZ he is said to have campaigned for a mask supplier, but withholding his profit.

Health Minister Jens Spahn (CDU) apparently remembered the warning words for a long time. They are said to have fallen in 2020, in those months when the federal government was desperately looking for masks to protect the population from the rampant corona pandemic. The CSU member Georg Nüßlein brokered masks from the Lomotex company.

When there were later problems with the payment because his ministry complained about defects, Spahn later describes it, Nüßlein called him several times because of this. The CSU MP had pointed out that it would be better if the company would be paid. Otherwise there could be a threat of unfavorable public reporting.

The words could be understood as collegial advice or as a hint that the press could pick it up if the money didn’t flow. According to documents that WDR, NDR and “Süddeutsche Zeitung” (SZ) were able to see, said Spahn these and other details in the context of an examination of witnesses with Munich public prosecutors. Because Spahn’s interlocutor at the time is now being investigated on suspicion of corruption. For the deal he accompanied between Lomotex and the Federal Ministry of Health, Nüßlein received a total of 660,000 euros in commission. He denies the allegations.

Hundreds of thousands of euros in commission

Until then, the two men were something of confidante: They had got to know each other well since they came to the Bundestag in 2002. At least since Spahn was Minister of Health and Nüßlein as the vice-head of the CDU / CSU parliamentary group responsible for health issues, there has been lively contact and several phone calls in some weeks – this is how Spahn reported to the investigators at the Munich Public Prosecutor’s Office when they met him in the Federal Ministry of Health at the beginning of June (BMG ) heard as a witness.

According to the files, in March 2020, at the beginning of the pandemic in Germany, Nüßlein arranged a delivery of respiratory masks from the Hessian textile company Lomotex to the Federal Ministry of Health. It was about 8.5 million masks for around 35 million euros. Nüßlein later received a commission of 660,000 euros for this. A further 540,000 euros were planned. But that didn’t work anymore.

In the meantime, Nüßlein has long been investigated on suspicion of corruption as a member of parliament. The central question is whether he was acting within the scope of his Bundestag mandate – only then could he have made himself liable to prosecution. The ex-parliamentarian denies the allegation. Because of the scandal, he is no longer a member of the Bundestag and has left the CSU.

Human disappointment

Spahn claims to have been stunned when he found out that Nüßlein should have received money. He still remembers it exactly, he told the investigators. He had just been to the Bundestag. For him it was a human disappointment.

In his testimony, however, Spahn leaves little doubt that he perceived Nüßlein as a member of the parliament in arranging the mask business. It was not unusual that, as Federal Minister of Health, he was in contact with MPs in the emergency at the beginning of the pandemic. Some MPs contacted him personally in order to mediate possible suppliers or to point out disputed payment claims in connection with the mask business.

When asked, Nüßlein’s lawyers replied that the former MP had never threatened Spahn with unfavorable public reporting. There was no reason for such a threat. It would inevitably have led to considerable frictions, which in no way would have been in the interests of the people involved. “Only one thing is correct: Dr. Nüßlein – as known – campaigned for various companies in May 2020 to ensure that the masks ordered by the federal government are actually paid for.”

Mail could be fatal

Spahn’s testimony also deals with text messages and emails that went back and forth between the minister, the ministry and Nüßlein in the Lomotex affair. An email from March 13, 2020 could be Nüßlein ‘s undoing. On this day, the then MP is said to have turned to an employee of Spahn in the ministry about the planned mask business and also to have added Ms. K. – employee of the CDU / CSU parliamentary group, health department.

Spahn testified that the task of these employees was to maintain contact between the parliamentary group’s members, in this case the vice-parliamentary group leader, and the relevant ministry. These employees are the point of contact for the day-to-day work between the ministry and the parliamentary group. That speaks for the fact that Nüßlein reported in this case as vice-parliamentary group leader in the ministry. At least that was what the ministry had to accept.

“Absolutely serious” offer

Even what Spahn otherwise testified does not necessarily speak for Nüßlein. The minister said he did not find the MP’s calls to be unusual about the money for the delivery company. Many companies have tried to resolve financial disputes through political channels. But it would never have occurred to him, according to Spahn, that Nüßlein could have benefited himself.

Nüßlein denies that his commitment to the mask deal had anything to do with his mandate in the Bundestag. “Nothing about all of this took place in the German Bundestag,” his lawyers said in the middle of the year when it became known that Spahn had testified as a witness. What the minister had said in detail was not yet known at the time.

Spahn should have been clear at the time that Nüßlein could not act as a member of parliament or a parliamentary deputy when it came to obtaining masks, wrote Nüßlein’s lawyers. “There could be no doubt for Mr. Spahn because Mr. Spahn himself asked Nüßlein several times for support in connection with procurements in the context of the corona pandemic – not in the capacity of our Mr. Mandate. “

At the time, Nüßlein’s lawyers said that the Ministry of Health had assessed the range of masks offered by the Hessian company “regardless of the use or person of Dr. Nüßlein, ie independently and objectively” and finally placed the order. The offer was “absolutely serious”. Objections raised later by the ministry are “tactical bogus objections”. Nüßlein and his lawyers have not changed anything about this attitude.


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