German transport minister Volker Wissing has sacked the head of his policy department, Klaus Bonhoff, for allegedly pushing for state funding to go to a project involving a close personal friend.

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Bohhoff had previously been cleared of the accusations following an internal review last year, but new emails have since emerged that were not originally handed over to auditors that contained “inconsistencies and contradictions” and cast doubt on the review’s findings.

State secretary Stefan Schnorr, the transport ministry’s top civil servant, explained that Bonhoff had been relieved of his duties because “the necessary relationship of trust between the minister and the head of department no longer exists”.

He added that “there have been deviations from the usual procedure when processing an application” and that “we can no longer rule out the possibility that there was influence”.

“I feel deceived… and of course Mr Wissing does too, it’s clear.”

Adam Mutwil, head of the ministry’s G25 department (hydrogen and fuel cells in mobility) — which allegedly withheld the emails from the internal review — also lost his job, but was given a new role in the ministry’s railway department.

Bonhoff is said to have personally interfered to ensure that funding of €1.4m was awarded to the German Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Association’s (DWV) HyMobility innovation cluster in 2021. DWV CEO Werner Diwald, who submitted the application, is a close personal friend of Bonhoff, and the two have even been on holiday together.

Schorr said that the DWV application is now being legally reviewed, and four other individual grants totalling €25.9m are also being re-examined, and that the return of previously granted funds cannot be ruled out.

Before his appointment at the transport ministry in 2019, Bonhoff had headed up the National Organisation for Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technology (NOW) for more than 11 years.