Daimler executives under investigation over Merkel aide probe image

Executives of the automaker are under investigation for suspicion of “granting undue advantage” to Eckart von Klaeden after Chancellor Angela Merkel’s former aide joined the carmaker as a lobbyist, according to the Berlin prosecutor’s office.

The investigation of top managers is a “logical part” of the probe of Eckart von Klaeden, who was hired by Daimler as a lobbyist, Martin Steltner, a spokesman for Berlin prosecutors, said in an interview. He declined to identify any board members or say how many are under investigation.

“A probe into granting undue advantage is targeting executives at Daimler,” Steltner said. “It’s not illegal if a government official changes jobs and joins a company as a lobbyist,” he added. “It would be illegal if the official did something in favor of the company while still in office in the expectation that would somehow pay off after he moved over. We have to review whether that was the case.”

Von Klaeden, a former state minister at Merkel’s chancellery, announced in May he would join Daimler as head of external affairs. He stayed at his government job until September. Daimler is cooperating with prosecutors and is convinced that the executives acted properly, said Ute von Vellberg, a spokeswoman for Stuttgart-based Daimler.

Germany’s WirtschaftsWoche reported earlier that the probe was targeted at Chief Executive Dieter Zetsche. German weekly magazine Der Spiegel, without citing any source, reported on Sunday that Klaeden, who was known to have met with Daimler representatives while still in politics, had access to three confidential government papers between January and May 2013 on the European Union’s planned regulation of auto emissions.

An anonymous tip triggered the investigation by the Berlin prosecutors’ office.

Via Reuters, Bloomberg