Former German President Wulff charged with corruption

German President Christian Wulff
Image caption Christian Wulff declined to pay a fine to avoid trial

Former German President Christian Wulff has been charged with corruption in a scandal which prompted his resignation last year.

Mr Wulff, 53, stepped down in February after less than two years in the post.

He is alleged to have accepted the payment of hotel bills by a film producer in return for favours while he was premier of Lower Saxony.

The former president rejects the allegations and has vowed to clear his name in court.

A court in Hamburg must now decide whether to try Mr Wulff on charges brought by the public prosecutor.

He had rejected an offer from the prosecutor in March to settle the case with a fine - a procedure allowed for cases not considered especially serious.

The film producer, David Groenewold, has also been charged with bribery.

He is alleged to have paid hotel bills for Mr Wulff in Munich during the Oktoberfest beer festival in 2008 and on the northern island of Sylt in 2007.

In return, Mr Wulff is accused of having lobbied German companies to support Mr Groenewold's work.

Merkel's choice

The Hamburg prosecutor said it seemed probable that the former president was motivated to seek financial backing for one of Mr Groenewold's films, John Rabe from the engineering giant Siemens.

Mr Wulff, Chancellor Angela Merkel's choice for president, resigned amid a welter of unfavourable coverage in the German media dealing with his links to businessmen.

The pressure on him increased at the end of December 2011 with allegations, published in the mass circulation Bild newspaper, about a low interest home loan received from the wife of a wealthy businessman in 2008.

He was accused of giving misleading statements about the loan and later apologised to the editor of Bild, Kai Diekmann, for leaving an angry message on his voicemail threatening him if the story was published.

Mrs Merkel had pushed strongly to get Mr Wulff, from her centre-right CDU party, appointed to the largely ceremonial post in 2010.

At the time of his resignation, she said she accepted it "with respect but also with regret" and that she was convinced he had "acted legally".

Mr Wulff was succeeded by the Lutheran pastor and former East German anti-communist campaigner, Joachim Gauck.

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