New EU chief in defence contracts storm ‘ had mobile phone wiped’
THE new president of the EU Commission is embroiled in an evidencetampering row after the contents of her mobile phone were deleted – despite calls for her to hand it in.
Ursula von der Leyen, who succeeded Jean-Claude Juncker, is a former defence minister in Angela Merkel’s government. She had the data on her official phone deleted ‘for security reasons’, according to the German defence ministry.
But furious MPs in the German parliament hit out at the ‘scandalous’ move, which took place while she was under investigation for doling out millions of euros on consultants for defence contracts. Parliamentarians accused the defence ministry of sabotaging their attempts to investigate the deals.
They have decried the ‘annoying stalling tactics’ of the ministry, which revealed on Thursday that the phone was wiped in August – despite investigators asking to see it for months.
It was wiped weeks after MPs had applied to have it classified as evidence, according to German newspaper Die Welt. Mrs von der Leyen, 61, gave millions of euros of the defence budget to consultants as she sought to kit out German soldiers with new equipment.
Germany’s Federal Audit Office said the ministry gave huge contracts to consultancy firms without first opening them up to competitors – or seeing if the deals were good value for money.
This led to an inquiry, in which MPs gathered over 4,000 documents and questioned 30 people over the affair. German MPs believe the deleted phone messages and data may have revealed whether Mrs von der Leyen broke government rules by giving instruction without leaving a paper trail.
In a statement, a defence ministry spokesman said the department had ‘provided all the available documents that are subject to investigation’.