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Transparency watchdog boss: Conflict of interest reports ‘serious’ for Munich Security Conference

BERLIN — Indications that outgoing Munich Security Conference Chairman Wolfgang Ischinger used the conference to further his personal business interests “are serious” and the forum needs to take steps to prevent such activity in the future, Transparency International Chief Executive Daniel Eriksson said.

“The accusations are serious and they should be treated seriously by the Munich Security Conference,” Eriksson told Bavarian state broadcaster Bayerischer Rundfunk in an interview from the conference Sunday. “This type of behind-the-scenes dealmaking should become a thing of a past.”

Eriksson was responding to evidence of conflicts of interest, detailed by POLITICO last week, between Ischinger’s role as chairman of the nonprofit annual conference and his myriad business activities with sponsors and others connected to the event.

Ischinger told German media separately that the suggestions of conflicts of interest were “absurd” and that he has a “clean conscience.”

Considered to be the most important event of its kind in foreign policy and security circles, the conference drew to a close on Sunday after three days of discussions about global flashpoints, such as Ukraine, and keynote addresses by the likes of U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

Behind the scenes, Ischinger’s business activities and the shadow the controversy has cast on the conference was a subject of intense debate, several attendees said.  

Ischinger said before this year’s conference that he would hand over the day-to-day running of the event to a successor at the conclusion of this year’s gathering, but will remain involved as the chairman of its board.

Eriksson called on Ischinger’s successor, Christoph Heusgen, to show a “higher degree of integrity” to ensure that the conference avoids conflicts of interest going forward.  

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