Scholz appears personally in the Finance Committee

style="float: right; margin-bottom: 10px; font-weight: 600;"Mon 20th Sep, 2021

Six days before the Bundestag elections, Finance Minister Olaf Scholz (SPD) faced questions in the Bundestag Finance Committee about the affair involving the anti-money laundering unit FIU. Contrary to expectations, the SPD candidate for chancellor did appear in person in Berlin on Monday - and cancelled election campaign dates in Baden-Württemberg to do so.

FDP, Greens and Left had requested the special session of the Bundestag committee after the Osnabrück prosecutor's office had conducted a search at the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Justice. The background to the action is investigations against employees of the FIU, a special anti-money laundering unit of the Customs in Cologne, which is assigned to Scholz's Ministry of Finance. FIU employees are alleged to have failed to pass on tips about terrorist financing to the judiciary and police in good time. In this context, investigators wanted to see documents from both ministries.

The most important question is: "Have specifications from Berlin led to huge gaps in the fight against money laundering?" said FDP financial politician Florian Toncar. The issue is which of the banks' suspicious activity reports for money laundering must be forwarded and which must not. It must be clarified whether the FIU employees had only implemented instructions from Berlin or had decided for themselves, Toncar said.

The FDP, the Greens, the Left, the AfD and the CDU/CSU had called on Scholz to appear before the committee in person and not - like some committee members themselves - to join digitally. "It is not a petitesse that the fight against money laundering in Germany does not work," Toncar stressed. "Whoever posters respect should also live respect for the parliament and for the public."Members of parliament from the CDU/CSU emphasized that they had, of course, canceled all their appointments. At the same time, they had obviously not expected that Scholz would actually be present, and in that case had considered summoning him to the Bundestag against his will.

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The search of Scholz's ministry just a few days before the Bundestag elections had also raised some questions. According to the Ministry of Justice, the documents sought had been offered to the public prosecutor's office long before. The public prosecutor's office represents the telephone conversation in question against it in such a way that the Ministry refused at first the publication of the documents and referred to "the large official channel". Thus one had decided to request searches in both houses. Unanimously it is said that the investigators could see the documents in question without problems.

There was speculation about an election campaign background, among other things, because the head of the Osnabrück public prosecutor's office, Bernard Südbeck, is also a CDU member, as is Lower Saxony's Justice Minister Barbara Havliza. The spokesman of the investigating authority rejected these speculations: The investigations are not led by Südbeck, he said.

The constitutional lawyer Joachim Wieland nevertheless considers the search to be unlawful. There were "sweeping doubts about the necessary proportionality," he wrote in a blog entry. "There is no apparent reason for the sharp sword of a search. It was not necessary and therefore unlawful."SPD member of parliament Cansel Kiziltepe told the German Press Agency, "Meanwhile, we have to assume that the CDU is abusing a public prosecutor's office for its election campaign." Barely a week before the election, it will be difficult to discuss objectively in the committee, he added. "All parties are in election fever. Partly it's also about distracting from their own weaknesses."

Scholz speaks of improvements

In the Triell broadcast by ProSieben, Sat.1 and Kabeleins, Scholz emphasized that much had been improved in the fight against money laundering under his tenure as Finance Minister. For example, he said, there were once 100 employees at the FIU. "Now there are 500 employees, and soon there will be 700," said Scholz.He told: "The FIU should no longer just forward the suspicious activity reports for money laundering, of which there are now almost 150,000 per year, but sort and evaluate them as in other countries before." To this end, he said, the FIU has been massively increased in personnel, among other things, and more access rights to databases of other authorities have been created.

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