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German MP to quit, leave ruling party group amid face mask scandal

German MP Nikolas Löbel will leave his Bundestag seat in August and resign as a member of the ruling CDU party’s parliamentary group after revelations that his company earned hundreds of thousands of euros from deals to supply face masks.

Löbel had confirmed media reports Friday that his company earned around €250,000 by brokering sales contracts for masks during the coronavirus pandemic between a supplier from his native Baden-Württemberg and two private companies in Heidelberg and Mannheim. Initially, he only stepped down from his post on the foreign affairs committee, but faced growing pressure to take further action ahead of regional elections in Baden-Württemberg and Rhineland-Palatinate as well as September’s national election.

On Sunday, Löbel said he would immediately leave the parliamentary group for Chancellor Angela Merkel’s CDU party and its sister party the CSU, quit his Bundestag seat at the end of August and not seek reelection.

“Being a member of the German Bundestag and being able to represent my home city of Mannheim there is a great honor and special moral duty,” he wrote in an apology, according to German media. “I take responsibility for my actions and draw the necessary political consequences.”

Löbel’s coronavirus-related business dealings have brought even more scrutiny to the conservative so-called Union of the CDU and CSU, as CSU lawmaker Georg Nüsslein faces a corruption probe also over face mask procurement deals. Nüsslein has denied wrongdoing, but on Friday resigned from his post as one of the deputy leaders of the parliamentary group and said he would not seek reelection.

Susanne Eisenmann, the CDU’s lead candidate in the Baden-Württemberg election, told Spiegel it is “unacceptable if a parliamentarian is enriching themselves with mask procurement during this serious crisis.” Eisenmann added that it shakes “trust in parliamentary democracy.”

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