Cum-Ex: The Tears of the Private Banker – Economy

It was a long statement, and in the middle of it, the private banker accused of serious tax offenses just couldn’t take it anymore. Christian Olearius, former boss and still co-owner of the traditional Hamburg money house Warburg, burst into tears. His lawyer, Peter Gauweiler from Munich, took over and continued to present the prepared statement. Until Olearius had composed himself and was able to read what he and his defense had written down on around 50 pages.

This scene took place five months ago, in mid-November 2022, in the North Rhine-Westphalian State Criminal Police Office in Düsseldorf. After years of investigations against him for allegedly serious offenses in the Cum-Ex tax scandal, the Hanseatic businessman Olearius described his view of things. How the judiciary had already condemned him. How the authorities would have exposed him with piercings. Above all because excerpts from his diaries about interventions with the then mayor of Hamburg and current chancellor Olaf Scholz were made public. And how his diaries showed that he had done nothing wrong.

The public prosecutor’s office in Cologne sees it differently. As early as July 2002, she filed 375-page charges against Olearius for tax evasion in a number of particularly serious cases. The damage to the tax authorities is said to have amounted to almost 280 million euros. The district court in Bonn approved the charges this week. Means: At some point in the coming months, the most spectacular cum-ex process to date will begin.

It’s also about his contacts with Olaf Scholz

The court will then not only deal with stock exchange deals, with which Warburg and many other banks are said to have cheated the tax authorities by a total of more than ten billion euros. By trading shares with (i.e. cum) and without (ex) dividends in circles for so long that the tax authorities no longer saw through. And a tax paid only once on the dividends refunded several times. In fact, this was tax theft, legally it is considered tax evasion.

In addition to Warburg’s cum-ex deals, the Bonn district court should also deal with big politics, with Olearius’ contacts with Scholz. The private banker wrote them down neatly in his diaries. When the Hamburg tax authorities were supposed to have money from Warburg in 2016, Olearius spoke to Scholz several times. Then the Treasury gave in. When that came out, Scholz got into trouble. But he denies having any influence. A committee of inquiry is underway in the Hamburg Parliament. There will soon also be a U-Committee in the Bundestag, with which the opposition CDU/CSU wants to shed light on the role of the SPD politician and Chancellor Scholz.

The court and the Bundestag will probably deal with Olearius and Scholz at almost the same time. Olearius’ point of view is his public defender Bernd Schünemann, on behalf of all four lawyers: “Our client made normal use of his right to petition as a citizen.” The trial will show that nothing offensive happened on Olearius’s part in the contacts with Scholz, says Schünemann.

That’s how the former CSU politician Peter Gauweiler sees it, in his capacity as one of Olearius’ three election defenders. Which leads to an unusual constellation. In Bonn in court, Gauweiler and his fellow lawyers will try to make Olearius’ talks with Scholz about Cum-Ex appear completely normal. In Berlin in the Bundestag, Gauweiler’s long-standing party friends from the CSU and CDU will do everything to pin a scandal on Olearius and especially Scholz.

The demand for millions is “blatantly contrary to the rule of law,” says the defense

In the Düsseldorf State Criminal Police Office, Olearius verbosely protested his innocence. He knew nothing about agreements at the expense of the Treasury. And nothing about bogus bills either. Auditors and tax officials had inspected everything at the time and found it to be in order. And his diary entries in particular show that he wasn’t worried that anything might be illegal.

The court will show whether this is the case. Or whether the allegations by the Cologne public prosecutor’s office are correct, which could lead to a long prison sentence. And it remains to be seen whether the private banker will have to pay a good 40 million euros to the state treasury. Olearius is said to have collected that much money from his private bank as profit sharing in those years when Warburg exempted the tax authorities according to the findings of the judiciary. That’s what the indictment says – whereby the public prosecutor’s office is said to have miscalculated by 50 euros.

The confiscation of more than 40 million euros requested by the public prosecutor’s office is “blatantly unlawful,” replies the public defender Schünemann. After all, Bankhaus Warburg has already paid 155 million euros to the Treasury. That was only possible because the two main owners of the bank, Christian Olearius and Max Warburg, helped with their private assets. Olearius should not be asked to pay twice, said the public defender. He announces a tough course in court.

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