German lawmaker gives up mandate amid accusations of lobbying for Azerbaijan

A German lawmaker for Angela Merkel’s ruling CDU party on Thursday became the third conservative parliamentarian to step down this week amid allegations of corruption, days before crucial regional elections, AFP reports.

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

Earlier this week, Spiegel magazine reported that a regional newspaper which Hauptmann edits published adverts for events in Azerbaijan such as the 2015 European Games and the 2018 Baku Shopping Festival.

“I have never received money and I have never been influenced in my political actions,” he told Die Welt newspaper.

Yet he has refused to publish a record of his additional incomes, telling Die Welt he was unable to divulge confidential business information.

Merkel’s conservatives on Wednesday ordered MPs to declare all financial gains related to the pandemic, as it sought to put an end to corruption allegations dogging their ranks over mask procurement.

The move to clean house came with the CDU and its CSU Bavarian sister party already embroiled in a corruption scandal after two of their lawmakers were accused of profiting directly or indirectly from mask contracts.

CSU lawmaker Georg Nuesslein was last month placed under investigation for corruption following accusations that he accepted around 600,000 euros ($715,000) to lobby for a mask supplier.

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

Loebel gave up his mandate this week, while Nuesslein has left the CDU/CSU, parliamentary group.

The scandal has led to a drop in the CDU’s popularity ratings just days ahead of two key regional elections in Baden-Wuerttemberg and Rhineland-Palatinate.

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