The Chancellor has a good chance of surviving the Cum-Ex scandal. But he still has no reason to celebrate. Because the allegation of false testimony is still in the room. Even if it is unlikely: a cleaner could still get Scholz into trouble.
In the Cum-Ex scandal, there are occasional events that, from the point of view of a high-ranking politician, can be described as “happy coincidences” because he benefited from them: Olaf Scholz. Perhaps he would not have become Chancellor if the search of the house of former SPD member of parliament Johannes Kahrs in connection with the affair had not taken place two days after the federal election, but before it, as the investigating Cologne public prosecutor Anne Brorhilker had obviously tried to do. She was initially stopped by the management of her authority because the initial suspicion against Kahrs was too vague.
Shortly before Scholz’s second testimony in August before the Hamburg investigative committee, the Hanseatic city’s public prosecutor’s office rejected a lawyer’s complaint not to initiate proceedings against the chancellor for alleged aiding and abetting tax evasion. The media response was correspondingly positive for the SPD man. The authority also did not share the allegation of false testimony.
And after everything that can be heard from circles that are close to the case, the Cologne public prosecutor’s office will not investigate Scholz and Hamburg’s first mayor Peter Tschentscher, also a Social Democrat, for possible involvement in the affair.
Has Scholz finally survived the scandal, which is about Hamburg’s inexplicable waiver of 47 million euros in taxes from Warburg-Bank’s illegal cum-ex transactions, both criminally and politically? A lot speaks for it. But he still has no reason to celebrate. Because the allegation of false testimony is still in the room.
The Cologne public prosecutor’s office will probably not declare itself responsible for the partial aspect and hand it over to the Hamburg colleagues. Then a cleaning lady could play a role – and maybe get the chancellor in trouble after all.
Scholz has repeatedly emphasized that during his time as Hamburg’s head of government, he did not influence the tax authority’s decision in favor of the bank. But – also a lucky coincidence? – whenever it became explosive for him, he revealed enormous knowledge gaps. Scholz had to correct statements several times, such as initial information about meetings with the now accused co-owner of the bank, Christian Olearius, in his Hamburg mayoral room and at public receptions.
A meeting took place just before the state decided to hand over the millions to the finance company. In his own words, the Chancellor cannot remember the content of the conversation, which the Hamburg CDU considers a “lie” and “maximum opacity”.
In March 2020, Scholz described reports in the Bundestag Finance Committee about a recently revealed meeting with Olearius as “hot air”. He did not let the banker know his opinion on the matter and otherwise could not give any details because of tax secrecy, he said at the time as Federal Minister of Finance. Months later, Scholz stated that he had no memory of the conversation.
When asked about a private meeting with Olearius before the U-Committee in August, he replied: “No, I think so” – leaving a back door open a crack to correct himself later.
Scholz may also have to go through the door. In the summer, a man from Hamburg called the Cologne investigators who wanted to know about “three corners” that Scholz had visited Olearius in his house in Blankenese – which would have been private, even if it had been official. From here it sounds like a miserable thriller: the information came from someone who knew Olearius’ cleaning lady. They recognized the Social Democrats during a visit.
However: The tipster is a former Hamburg judge. He enjoys a “high reputation” and “knows what he’s doing, is definitely not a braggart,” reported an insider to FOCUS online. This is probably the reason why the former judge’s comments found their way into the file. According to the news portal t-online, which first reported on the call, he recommended interviewing Olearius’ neighbors. He is said to have named the company of the cleaning lady.
With reference to tax secrecy, the Cologne investigators did not provide any information about the process. According to t-online, Scholz’s press office “did not want to comment on events outside the area of responsibility of the Federal Chancellery”. The SPD politician’s deputy office did not respond to an inquiry visiting Dr. Olearius (private).”
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The lawyer did not answer the question about any official meetings in his client’s house with the Social Democrat, but wrote: “Nothing is known of a file note”, “but nothing at all is known. Is it perhaps an invention or a ruse?”
It is extremely questionable whether the Hamburg public prosecutor’s office, which has so far seen no initial suspicion of a false statement by the chancellor, will now locate the cleaning lady in order to find out from her whether she has ever seen Scholz at Olerarius’s. Especially since there is currently nothing to suggest that an investigation will be initiated in SPD-governed Hamburg – that would be fatal for Scholz. In addition, there are only indications so far that the CDU accusation of lying is correct, evidence of any kind is missing.
It is now also questionable whether Olearius will make statements in his trial that could pose a threat to Scholz in order to be treated mercifully in the event of a guilty verdict. The FDP member of the Bundestag Florian Toncar had called the banker a “ticking time bomb for Scholz” – but before the federal elections and the entry of the Liberals into the coalition that supports the Chancellor.
Richard Seelmaecker, CDU spokesman in the Hamburg investigative committee on the Ex-Cum scandal, said in the summer: “I’m counting on Olearius being convicted. He will testify in court in the hope of a light sentence. And then it looks murky for Scholz.