The chancellor can’t get rid of the scandal surrounding the Warburg Bank’s crooked dealings. After a previously secret protocol to Scholz’s statements became known, the dispute received new fuel. Union and SPD are also at odds over who ensures transparency.

Shortly before the federal election, which he won, Olaf Scholz had the opportunity to publicly keep his promise to actively help clarify the financial scandals Wirecard and Ex-Cum. Annalena Baerbock, the Green Party’s candidate for chancellor who later lost, asked her SPD competitor in a TV program: “Will the protocol be disclosed before the election?” Scholz did not insist on an answer, the moderators stopped the topic. So he was spared the public debate about whether his statements about his many memory gaps in the Cum-Ex affair are understandable or not.

She catches up with him now. Because the document classified as secret for a meeting of the Finance Committee of the Bundestag in July 2020 was released shortly before Christmas, the dispute over the content and the credibility of the Chancellor is in full swing – only under the opposite sign. The Greens and FDP, who – together with the left-wing faction – did not let Scholz rest on Wirecard or Cum-Ex, have governed with the SPD for a year and have lost interest in getting the head of government in trouble. Baerbock, now Secretary of State, never mentioned the protocol again.

It is now above all the Union that continues to put pressure on the chancellor, above all Matthias Hauer, CDU chairman in the finance committee of the Bundestag. The Christian Democrat had not exactly spared Scholz even during the grand coalition. He insisted on the publication of the protocol, against which the Federal Ministry of Finance, now led by the FDP, had long resisted for legal reasons, since the basic rights of people and companies had to be considered, for example the protection of trade, business and tax secrets.

“The department blocked it for a long time,” said Hauer in an interview with FOCUS online. In a first proposal to release the minutes, Christian Lindner’s (FDP) ministry submitted such a heavily blackened version that it “would not have enabled any gain in knowledge, because even most of the questions from the MPs had been made unrecognizable. You can leave it there.”

But what particularly upsets the CDU MP is “the impertinence of the Social Democrats”. Scholz and the financial policy spokesman for the SPD parliamentary group, Michael Schrodi, would have done everything to hide the document from the public. “The fact that they now claim the opposite is ridiculous and refutable.” In fact, it was the Union that pushed the disclosure. However, Schrodi explained on Twitter that the protocol “is being downgraded/declassified under pressure from the traffic light coalition. SPD wanted that last legislative period.” If that was the case, why did Baerbock ask Scholz in a television discussion shortly before the election whether the minutes would “still be disclosed”?

In his statement, Schrodi obviously referred to a letter from him and colleagues from the FDP and Greens dated October 11 to the chairman of the finance committee, Alois Rainer (CSU). It refers to media reports that Christian Olearius, the owner of the Warburg Bank, which was involved in crooked cum-ex deals, and the bank itself waived their right to tax secrecy in relation to the parliamentary document. “There is a great deal of interest in a timely degraded and de-blackened protocol,” they wrote. Which is why it would be good if he, Rainer, contacted those responsible at the Warburg Bank “directly”.

Rainer did that several days later. The CSU MP had already promised to take care of it at a special meeting of the finance committee in early September. It is unclear why it took almost until the end of October for him to write to the company. Nevertheless, Hauer explains: The letter from the traffic light coalition to Rainer only serves to suggest that the committee chief was put under pressure. At the time, his parliamentary colleague had long planned what the SPD, Greens and FDP knew.

The interpretation of the Chancellor’s statements, which were known or confirmed by the minutes, differ widely. Scholz explained – his words are only recorded in indirect speech – in the summer of 2020 that he had not prepared for the meeting with the owner of the Warburg Bank, that he had “listened to many things” and “only heard Christian Olearius’ point of view ‘ but did not reveal his own stance. After the conversation, he “saw no reason” to get involved in the proceedings of the Hamburg tax authorities. This didn’t happen either.

At the time when Scholz ruled there, Hamburg had waived a total of 90 million euros in tax money from the Warburg Bank in connection with the Cum-Ex affair. A meeting with Olearius in November 2017, which the Social Democrat only admitted after journalists had researched it, took place right at the time the decision to waive millions was made. During his two appearances before the Hamburg investigative committee on the cum-ex scandal, the chancellor declared that he had completely forgotten the content of the conversation.

For Hauer this is not credible. The log shows that the SPD man remembered it “in great detail”. Schrodi sees no contradiction in the Chancellor’s various statements. At the meeting, Scholz merely reproduced “notes from Christian Olearius” and the “press reports on his meetings” with the banker. “Not more.”

That’s not enough for the Union faction. She requests that Scholz be questioned again in the finance committee about the processes in order to clarify the “contradictions”. This puts the coalition in a quandary. If she rejects the request with her majority, it falls back mainly on the FDP and Greens, who demanded a total clarification of the scandal more than a year ago. If she gives in to the opposition’s wishes, Scholz still can’t get over the issue. One thing is certain: if he has to appear before the committee again, he will again claim gaps in his memory.