Finance affair: Chancellery Minister: "Cum-Ex" allegations against Scholz clarified

Chancellery Minister Wolfgang Schmidt considers the allegations of leading SPD politicians influencing the decisions of the tax authorities in the "Cum-Ex" affair to be clear.

Finance affair: Chancellery Minister: "Cum-Ex" allegations against Scholz clarified

Chancellery Minister Wolfgang Schmidt considers the allegations of leading SPD politicians influencing the decisions of the tax authorities in the "Cum-Ex" affair to be clear.

Thousands of pages of files had been viewed and many witnesses questioned, Schmidt said on Friday in his four-and-a-half-hour witness hearing before the parliamentary investigative committee of the Hamburg Parliament. Now there is more clarity, and he dares to say that the financial administration made its own decision regarding the Hamburger Warburg Bank involved in the scandal, said the SPD politician.

At the same time he criticized the reporting in the media. By quoting from the diary entries of the bank co-owner Christian Olearius, in which he had calmed down in 2016 after meeting with Scholz regarding a pending reclaim of unjustly refunded taxes in the millions against the bank, the impression was given that Scholz was influencing have. "The fact that Olearius wrote something about Scholz's reserved behavior was suppressed." Today's Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) was the mayor of Hamburg at the time.

Repeat meetings

Scholz had received the bank shareholders Olearius and Max Warburg several times in the town hall in 2016 and 2017 - Olearius was already being investigated for tax evasion in connection with "Cum-Ex" transactions. After the first two meetings, Scholz called Olearius and asked the bank to send a letter of defense against the impending repayment to the finance senator, today's mayor Peter Tschentscher (SPD). He forwarded the letter to the tax authorities.

At the end of 2016, contrary to the original plan, the tax authorities waived a reclaim of 47 million euros - and according to the state of knowledge at the time, allowed the statute of limitations to run, as witnesses had testified. A year later, a further 43 million euros in capital gains tax that had been wrongly reimbursed was only reclaimed on the instructions of the Federal Ministry of Finance. According to its own statements, the bank only settled all outstanding tax reclaims in 2020 after a court ruling, but is still trying to get the money back through legal channels. Schmidt denied that the reclaims would ever have become statute-barred.

During his two interrogations in the committee - most recently in August - Chancellor Scholz denied any influence on the Warburg tax case. With regard to the content of his conversations with Olearius and Warburg, however, he referred to gaps in his memory.

Does a media report bring enlightenment?

According to a “Spiegel” report, confidential minutes from the Bundestag Finance Committee from July 2020, in which Scholz was questioned about the meetings, could help to clarify the memory gaps. It should be about a conversation between Scholz and Olearius. So far, the Federal Ministry of Finance has kept the protocol under lock and key with reference to tax secrecy. However, the spokesman for Olearius and Warburg now told the "Spiegel" that they would "of course not assert their right to tax secrecy on this issue". The spokesman confirmed this to the dpa.

The chairman of the SPD in the committee, Milan Pein, also spoke out in favor of the release. "I call on the chairman of the finance committee of the Bundestag, Alois Rainer, to declassify and release the minutes of the meeting of the finance committee on July 1st, 2020," he told the dpa. "After today's meeting, it is clear that the banks are renouncing tax secrecy. Federal Minister Schmidt also spoke out in favor of release today."

Schmidt is considered Scholz's closest confidante, he has been by his side for around 20 years. As the State Councilor for Foreign Affairs at the time, he himself had “no perception” of the Warburg case and “no knowledge of discussions that the mayor held”.

In the case of "cum-ex" transactions, blocks of shares were shifted back and forth by several participants around the dividend record date with ("cum") and without ("ex") a right to a dividend. As a result, tax offices reimbursed capital gains taxes that had not been paid at all. The state suffered billions in damage.

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