'It all stinks to high heaven': Olaf Scholz urged to quit

·2 min read
Olaf Scholz told to quit amid tax fraud scandal - ODD ANDERSEN/AFP via Getty Images
Olaf Scholz told to quit amid tax fraud scandal - ODD ANDERSEN/AFP via Getty Images

Olaf Scholz was facing calls to resign on Friday as he prepared to testify to a committee again over his role in tackling a multibillion-euro tax fraud scheme as Hamburg’s mayor.

Richard Seelmaecker, the opposition CDU party’s representative on the commission, said Germany’s chancellor and his successor as mayor, Peter Tschentscher, should step down.

"Both have to resign," he told Germany’s DPA news agency.

The CumEx scheme, first revealed in 2017, involved numerous banks and investors exploiting a loophole by swiftly exchanging company shares among themselves around dividend day in order to claim multiple tax rebates on a single payout.

The committee is investigating why local financial authorities in 2016 dropped a bid to claw back €47 million (£39 million) in taxes from Hamburg bank Warburg over CumEx trades.

'There has been no political influence'

"It all stinks to high heaven and simply cannot have happened without political influence," Mr Seelmaecker told broadcaster n-tv.

Mr Scholz, who has already appeared before the committee once, has repeatedly dismissed any suggestions he acted inappropriately.

"Countless files have been studied, countless people have been heard. The result is always: There has been no political influence," Mr Scholz recently told reporters.

Steffen Hebestreit, the chancellor’s spokesman, said earlier this week that Mr Scholz, who was the mayor of Hamburg from 2011 to 2018, had nothing to hide.

But a tranche of emails seized recently from Mr Scholz’s former office manager could bring new evidence to light, according to several German media reports.

Olaf Scholz told to quit amid tax fraud scandal - Sean Gallup /Getty Images Europe
Olaf Scholz told to quit amid tax fraud scandal - Sean Gallup /Getty Images Europe

Rumours are spreading that the decision to let Warburg off in 2016 followed a conversation between Mr Scholz and Christian Olearius, the bank's co-owner.

Mr Scholz, who says he cannot remember the details of the conversations he had with Mr Olearius, has been accused of withholding information from investigators.

Friedrich Merz, the CDU leader, said on Friday it was "simply completely unbelievable" that Mr Scholz could not remember details of the event.

"Unfortunately, I have to say it so clearly: I don't believe a word the chancellor says," he told Handelsblatt.

With Mr Scholz’s popularity already waning amid widespread criticism of his response to the war in Ukraine, the case threatens to further undermine the chancellor as he fights to hold together a fractious coalition and deal with a mounting energy crisis.