After a search in the ministry: Scholz suddenly on the defensive

Status: 10.09.2021 7:34 p.m.

Flawless and in the fast lane – that’s how SPD Chancellor candidate Scholz last appeared in the election campaign. But now he suddenly has to face massive criticism because of the events surrounding the customs special unit FIU. And the CSU is digging up the issue of cum-ex again.

In surveys, the Union and the Greens were ahead of the SPD for a long time. But then, in the perception of many people, mistakes and blunders by Armin Laschet and Annalena Baerbock piled up – and practically every survey clearly showed: For Union and Greens, candidates for chancellor are more of a burden than a workhorse.

And with the SPD? It went exactly the other way around: Chancellor candidate Olaf Scholz pulled his party up in the polls and did not allow himself any major mistake in the election campaign – so far. But suddenly he is increasingly confronted with attacks.

If questions “could also have been asked in writing”

There was clear criticism of his initial reaction to the searches in his ministry. Yesterday, the Osnabrück public prosecutor’s office searched the finance ministry headed by Scholz, as did the justice ministry. The investigations are directed against the special unit for combating money laundering, the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU), located at Customs – and thus at the Ministry of Finance. It is about the suspicion that evidence of money laundering was not passed on.

Scholz was irritated by the searches and said: If the investigators had questions for the finance department, they “could have asked them in writing”. He continued: “Now they have been posed in a different way. Everyone can judge that for themselves.”

Opposition wants special meeting of finance committee

The Union interpreted this as a “strange understanding of the rule of law” – as CDU budget politician Eckhardt Rehberg called it. And Union chancellor candidate and Scholz rival Armin Laschet said: “If your own ministry is searched to tell the public prosecutor what it would have done better, you usually only know from populist states.”

The Greens and FDP not only criticized the finance minister’s choice of words. Together with the Left Party, they want to request a special meeting of the finance committee on the FIU case.

The integrity of the fight against money laundering in Germany threatens to be in question and thus an important part of the fight against organized crime and terrorism, said the chairmen Lisa Paus (Greens), Stefan Liebich (Left) and Markus Herbrand (FDP). This requires prompt action and a referral to the committee before the federal election on September 26th. “We would like to invite Finance Minister Olaf Scholz, who has overall political responsibility for the ongoing grievances at the FIU, to take a position on this and to contribute to the comprehensive clarification of the events.”

Söder calls for parliamentary investigation

CSU boss Markus Söder went one step further – or rather back to Scholz’s past as first mayor of Hamburg. Specifically, Söder called for more extensive parliamentary investigations into the so-called cum-ex affair.

There are “countless questions, no answers,” said Söder at the CSU party congress. This “whole complex” deserves to be examined in parliament in the same way as the toll – there was a committee of inquiry in the Bundestag on the debacle over the car toll.

Scholz: Cooperation – “as it should be”

At the time when Scholz was Hamburg’s mayor, the tax authorities of the Hanseatic city waived a claim of 47 million euros from the Warburg Bank. The bank had participated in cum-ex deals, which the Federal Court of Justice has now classified as criminal tax evasion. Scholz has repeatedly rejected the accusation of political influence on the tax authorities. In many places, however, he referred to gaps in memory. Scholz nevertheless promised “full transparency”.

In the case of FIU, the Federal Ministry of Finance should according to a “Spiegel” report the deficits in the customs special unit have not only not corrected for years. Under Scholz, the house “even negated clear warnings from the Federal Audit Office,” writes the news magazine, citing the ministry’s answers to inquiries from Green budgetary politician Sven-Christian Kindler.

In the case of the investigation in connection with the FIU, Scholz said that his house would work closely with the investigative authorities – “as it should be”.

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