BERLIN – Issues for Scholz in tax fraud scandal

On Thursday (3 September), reporting from the Süddeutsche Zeitung claimed that Finance Minister and chancellor candidate for the Social Democratic Party (SPD), Olaf Scholz, had, during his time as Mayor of Hamburg, met with Christian Olearius, the head of the bank MM Warburg. The bank is involved in Germany’s largest tax scandal known as the Cum-Ex Scandal, in which banks defrauded the government of billions of euros.

The newspaper came across these revelations after consulting Olearius’ daily planner.

Scholz has previously claimed that he met with the bank boss once in 2017 while being questioned about the affair by the Bundestag’s finance committee in March and July.

However, the planner indicates three separate meetings in 2016 and 2017. Scholz has since confirmed the meetings to German media outlets.

The documents show that Scholz met with Olearius even after a Cologne prosecutor started an investigation into the bank’s illegal Cum-ex transactions. Investigators searched the bank in January 2016, and Germany’s financial watchdog agency had also launched their own investigation.

Nevertheless, Scholz still held a meeting with Olearius in September 2016, according to the planner.

During the meeting, Olearius reportedly informed Scholz about the bank’s situation regarding the accusations of illegal transfers and the Hamburg authorities’ plans to reclaim a €47 million tax refund from the bank. At a separate meeting in October, the bank head showed Scholz a letter denying the allegations.

Two weeks after this meeting, Olearius’ notes indicate that Scholz called him and instructed that he send the letter to then Finance Senator Peter Tschentscher. Three days later, Olearius got a tip from the authorities that they would not be able to reclaim the tax refund.

Scholz says that he has “no concrete memory of the content of the conversations” and denied that he “exercised any influence in the tax matter.”

However, these latest revelations could land him in deep water, especially amid continued questions about his ministry’s oversight failures in the Wirecard scandal.

(Sarah Lawton | EURACTIV.de)

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