Olaf Scholz maintains his image as a rock-solid politician. Now a financial affair from his time in Hamburg threatens to overtake him. The opposition accuses him of lying. Today is the showdown.
Hamburg was often good for Olaf Scholz. He grew up there and started his political career. There, he celebrated his greatest electoral success to date as the first mayor with dream results. Scholz likes to emphasize this when it comes to why he can now lead the SPD out of the deep valley of all people.
I can win elections, look at Hamburg. That was always his strongest argument for himself.
That is why it is particularly tough for Scholz that a scandal from his time in Hamburg threatens to overtake him. Now, of course, shortly after his SPD made him a candidate for chancellor. The competition sees the opportunity to finally add some dirt to the vacuum cleaner. In the SPD, people are still stressed. But today, Wednesday, it is getting serious for Scholz. If he has several appointments, he will have to ask himself unpleasant questions in the Bundestag. And to get out of there unscathed, his previous answers probably won’t be enough.
The case is complicated. That is a problem for the opposition and an opportunity for Scholz. Basically, it’s about the claim that a bank in Hamburg saved millions in repayments with the help of Scholz. And if that cannot be proven, then at least the charge that Scholz lied in the case against the Bundestag.
The Hamburg private bank Warburg was involved in the cum-ex scandal, in which investors used tricks to recover capital gains tax paid by the tax authorities multiple times. As a result, the state has lost billions in revenue. The public prosecutor’s office investigated the Warburg Bank, but in 2016 the tax authorities of Hamburg allowed a tax recovery from them to be barred – for an amount of 47 million euros.
It was precisely at this time that the then first mayor Scholz met several times with Warburg co-owner Christian Olearius, as “Süddeutsche Zeitung”, “Zeit” and NDR were able to demonstrate recently using the banker’s elaborate diaries. Did Scholz influence the decision not to recover the money?
No concrete evidence of influence
Scholz himself vehemently denies exercising any influence, even the latest revelations contain no concrete evidence. In the SPD, some even find the diaries enlightening. After one of the meetings, the banker remarked there not only that Scholz had asked “smart questions”, but also, “We have not been promised, expect or demand that.”
But the opposition has questions, many questions. So much so that Scholz is heading for a real Warburg marathon on Wednesday. From 9.30 am he initially faces the specialized politicians in the financial committee. He will answer questions from the government inquiry in the plenum of the Bundestag from 1 pm. And for this afternoon, the left group has requested a current hour on this subject.
There are plenty of topics, at least from an opposition perspective. The non-partisan recognized left-wing financial politician Fabio De Masi immediately gushes if you want to know what Scholz has to explain from him.
No lie, just said nothing
On the one hand, there is the fact that Scholz only admitted to meeting the banker Olearius several times when the media reported about it. So far there was only one such meeting known, now it is clear: there were at least three and one phone calls.
“Olaf Scholz has to explain why he told us the untruth about the meeting with Olearius,” De Masi told Chillreport. At a meeting of the finance committee in March, the left-wing financial politician asked Finance Minister Scholz, among others, if there had been any more such talks with Olearius. Scholz did not respond to this in his answer. This is documented in the minutes of the private meeting that Chillreport has.
Fabio De Masi: The left-wing financial politician accuses Scholz of telling him the untruth. (Source: Jörg Carstensen / dpa)
In the environment of the Minister of Finance, the position is now apparently that Scholz simply said nothing about this and may have forgotten the part of the question. Because the questions of the members of the committee were first collected and then answered by Scholz in one block. Wolfgang Schmidt, State Secretary of Scholz and important confidant, plunged into discussions on Twitter with MPs and journalists last weekend and wrote to De Masi, among others: ‘There was no question or advice from you or colleagues that the answer was still missing. “
He didn’t lie, he just didn’t say anything, so the line of defense.
The opposition is not convinced
The opposition is not convinced, especially as there were questions on other occasions after the meetings. And the left-wing financial politician De Masi sees several other inconsistencies. “Scholz must also explain whether tax officials in Hamburg were really on their own against two orders from the Federal Treasury Department to secure the million dollar claim on Warburg,” said De Masi.
He refers to a lawsuit in 2017. At that time, the tax authorities of Hamburg initiated a second tax recovery from the bank in the amount of 43 million euros, unlike last year. However, according to research, only after the federal government insisted on it. The opposition’s suspicion: Without political support in Hamburg, the tax officials would not have blocked this for so long.
Here too it is the charge of political influence. The really big cutlery.
SPD sees the debate about the election campaign
In his party, Scholz has so far been vigorously defended. He is said to have recently promoted the investigation into the Wirecard fraud and pushed through several reforms. Even now Scholz will fully explain himself.
Wirecard is the second major construction site for the Chancellor candidate. A parliamentary committee of inquiry will clarify in the coming months whether Scholz was guilty of anything during the audit of the financial services provider. Uncomfortable news could therefore repeatedly disrupt the election campaign of the SPD candidate for chancellor.
And they already see that coming in the SPD, at least with their political opponents. “In general, the impression arises that the other groups have already started the election campaign,” said SPD parliamentary manager, Carsten Schneider, to Chillreport. “They are trying to discredit the person of the Federal Finance Minister, who has so far successfully mastered the effects of the crisis on the health system and jobs in Germany, and in doing so they want the SPD’s candidate for chancellor. That won’t work. “
Whether you are campaigning or not – Scholz will have to provide conclusive answers. Not only the left, but also the Greens are alarmed. “Salami tactics must end,” demanded the left-wing financial politician De Masi. ‘If he thinks he can get away with it, he doesn’t know me well. He must now put all the cards on the table. ‘
It is already clear to him: “It stinks.”