Chancellor Olaf Scholz once again rejected any influence on the tax proceedings of the Warburg Bank, which was involved in the cum-ex scandal, before the investigative committee of the Hamburg Parliament. "I had no influence on the Warburg tax procedure," said the former mayor of Hamburg during his second hearing before the committee.
The core of the committee is the question of whether leading SPD politicians have influenced the tax treatment of the bank. The background is three meetings between Scholz and the shareholders of Warburg Bank, Christian Olearius and Max Warburg, in 2016 and 2017.
After the first meeting, the Hamburg tax authorities initially let the bank statute of limitations on reclaims of unjustly refunded capital gains tax amounting to 47 million euros. Another 43 million euros were reclaimed a year later, shortly before the statute of limitations expired and on the instructions of the Federal Ministry of Finance.
Still no memory
Scholz admitted to the meetings during his first interrogation in April last year, but stated that he could no longer remember the content of the conversation. That is still the case, said the Chancellor.
However, the committee's investigations since then have confirmed exactly what he said at the time: "There has been no political interference whatsoever."
Allegations to the contrary were "supported by nothing and nobody" during the surveys. He pointed out that tax evasion is not a "trivial offence". He's always seen it that way. That's another reason why it's clear: "There was no preferential treatment for Mr. Warburg or Mr. Olearius."
Scholz said he "cherished the faint hope that assumptions and insinuations would stop." He also pointed out that the city of Hamburg was not harmed because the Warburg Bank paid the capital gains tax later.
criticism from the opposition
The opposition in the committee was dissatisfied with Scholz's statements. Left representative Norbert Hackbusch criticized Scholz's initial statement as "somewhat presumptuous". Scholz is making a final assessment of the committee's work, which he is not entitled to do.
The opposition in the federal government expressed doubts about Scholz's credibility even before the meeting. CDU leader Friedrich Merz told the "Handelsblatt" newspaper that he "didn't believe a word" of the chancellor. Left parliamentary group leader Dietmar Bartsch attested to the chancellor's "questionable memory gaps".
Scholz received support from Federal Finance Minister Christian Lindner: "The Chancellor has our full confidence," he told the "Rheinische Post". "I have always perceived Scholz – whether in the opposition or now in the government – as a person of integrity and there is no reason to doubt it."
Committee work could go on for longer
The Hamburg CDU probably wants to invite Scholz to the committee of inquiry for a third time. "We would have liked to have had this appointment later because new files have appeared," said the CDU chairman in the committee, Richard Seelmaecker, to Reuters-TV.
The committee chairman Mathias Petersen (SPD) also indicated that he did not expect the committee work in the Hamburg Parliament to end. The opposition have made another application to expand the committee by a large piece. "I don't know what kind of witnesses we will have then," he said.
It will take months before the files can be requested and viewed. Among other things, new documents from the Cologne public prosecutor's office appeared, which is also investigating.