Olaf Scholz embroiled in bank’s alleged tax fraud as prosecutors search his emails

·2 min read
Olaf Scholz - Ronald Wittek/Shutterstock
Olaf Scholz - Ronald Wittek/Shutterstock

Olaf Scholz’s emails have been searched by prosecutors as part of a corruption investigation into a Hamburg bank’s avoidance of a €50 million (£42 million) tax bill.

The search, which took place in March but only became public knowledge on Monday, is reportedly linked to an investigation into whether Hamburg politicians put pressure on the city finance authority to waive the multi-million euro tax demand against the MM Warburg bank.

The decision to waive the tax demand was made in 2016 after MM Warburg had been caught up in the CumEx scandal, a tax fraud scheme in which several German financial institutions stole billions of euros from European treasuries.

At the time, Mr Scholz, now the German chancellor and the leader of the Social Democrats (SPD) was Hamburg’s city mayor. He is known to have met the bank’s co-owner on several occasions shortly before the tax demand was waived, but claims not to recall details of the conversations.

According to leaked details, investigators probing the case found over €200,000 (£170,000) in cash during a search of the premises of Johannes Kahrs, a colleague of Mr Scholz’s in the Hamburg SPD.

‘The whole thing stinks’

MM Warburg made donations to the Hamburg SPD at the time to the tune of €40,000 (£33,000), and Mr Kahrs is known to have facilitated meetings between bank executives and Mr Scholz’s closest advisors.

“The whole thing stinks,” Thorsten Frei, a senior member of the centre-right CDU, told Bild newspaper. “Sooner or later, the public will find out whether the Warburg Bank’s generous donations to the Hamburg SPD and the tax dodges are connected.”

Steffen Hebestreit, Mr Scholz’s spokesman, said he was unaware that prosecutors had searched the chancellor’s email server. “I don’t know anything about it. We have nothing to hide,” he told a local newspaper.

He also said Mr Scholz knew nothing about the huge sums of cash that his colleague had stored at home.

Next week, Mr Scholz faces an uncomfortable cross-examination at Hamburg city hall by a parliamentary commission set up to look into the affair.