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Germans sour on capitalism amid corporate scandals

The massive tax-evasion probe has netted more than 300 suspects, including top executive Klaus Zumwinkel of Deutsche Post.

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Germany was just warming up to a more hard-edged capitalism. Then came the scandals.

Engineering giant Siemens is under investigation in Europe, the US, and China on suspicion of paying up to $2 billion in bribes to win foreign contracts. A German court last month convicted two Volkswagen executives for their hand in improprieties including corruption and corporate-paid prostitutes. Now, a massive tax evasion probe has implicated hundreds of Germans including the CEO of Deutsche Post.

The scandals have undermined public trust in the integrity of corporations, bolstering a growing shift to the left and its social welfare ideals. The Social Democratic Party (SPD), the junior partner in Germany's grand coalition, has been steadily eating away at the popularity of the ruling Christian Democrats (CDU). The Left Party, meanwhile, has become the third most popular party since it was formed – in part by former East German communists – last year.

Both scored gains in regional elections this winter, campaigning on unemployment benefits, childcare support, a national minimum wage, and reining in corporate salaries.

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