Politician from Merkel’s Party Resigns over Profiting from Mask Contracts

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BERLIN (AP) – A lawmaker with German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s party said Sunday he will give up his seat in parliament and leave politics after it emerged that his company profited from deals to procure masks early in the pandemic — drawing sharp criticism in an election year.

Nikolas Loebel, a backbench lawmaker with Merkel’s centre-right Christian Democratic Union, was blasted by members of his own party and opponents after it emerged Friday that a company he runs earned commissions of 250,000 euros ($298,000) from brokering contracts to buy masks. Saying that he should have been “more sensitive,” Loebel admitted that he had made a mistake and gave up his seat on parliament’s foreign affairs committee.

That wasn’t enough for critics — particularly as his home state of Baden-Wuerttemberg elects a new regional legislature on March 14. A national election in which Germans will choose a new parliament, and determine who succeeds Merkel, follows on Sept. 26.

Susanne Eisenmann, the CDU candidate for governor in Baden-Wuerttemberg, told news magazine Der Spiegel that “it is unacceptable for parliamentarians to enrich themselves in this serious crisis.”

On Sunday, Loebel said he will leave the Union bloc’s group in parliament immediately and give up his seat at the end of August. He apologized and said he won’t run in the September election, the dpa news agency reported.

“I am taking responsibility for my actions,” he said.

Loebel’s case wasn’t the first to rattle the centre-right bloc. Georg Nuesslein — a prominent lawmaker with the Christian Social Union, the CDU’s Bavaria-only sister party — faces a corruption investigation by Munich prosecutors in connection with mask procurement deals. He denies wrongdoing.

On Friday, Nuesslein’s lawyer said he won’t run for re-election in September and is giving up his position as a deputy leader of the Union’s parliamentary group.

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