It was February 15, 2022 when the renowned Hamburg criminal lawyer Gerhard Strate reported today's Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) to the public prosecutor's office of the Hanseatic city for the first time because of unsworn false statements in the Hamburg Cum-Ex scandal. The Hamburg prosecution authorities do not want to start investigations to this day.
Only on Monday did it become known that the public prosecutor's office had rejected a complaint by Strate against the previous decisions of the Hamburg judiciary's subordinate departments. Strate reacted to this with a great deal of incomprehension - and has a very specific suspicion due to the date of publication.
Strate reported Scholz because she is said to have given him different information about his memory in the Finance Committee of the Bundestag and in the Parliamentary Committee of Inquiry of the Hamburg Parliament. It is about meetings between Scholz and the shareholders of the Warburg Bank involved in the "Cum-Ex" scandal during his time as mayor of Hamburg in 2016 and 2017.
According to Strate, the minutes of the Bundestag, which have since been made public, show that Scholz was able to remember the contents of a meeting during surveys in March and July 2020 in the finance committee. In April 2021, Scholz then stated during his first interrogation in front of the Hamburg PUA that he could not remember the meeting at all.
The Attorney General said there was no initial suspicion that Scholz could have given false testimony before the Hamburg PUA. The protocols contained no evidence of "a memorylessness that was later deliberately and untruthfully claimed". With the decision from February announced on Monday, she confirmed an identical decision by the public prosecutor's office from December last year, in which they had refrained from initiating investigations against Scholz.
"Seldom has the management of a law enforcement agency shown such neglect of duty as in this case," Strate commented on the decision that became public on Monday. The Hamburg public prosecutor's office "continues to see itself as a protective and defensive wall for the city government," writes Strate on his law firm's website.
David Stoop, representative of the left-wing faction in the Cum-Ex Parliamentary Investigation Committee of the Hamburg Parliament, was also very surprised on Monday by the decision of the Attorney General's Office. "Hamburg's public prosecutor's office continues to show little willingness to investigate," said Stoop.
Above all, he considers part of the reasoning to be “amazing”. It is therefore possible that the Chancellor's statement to the Finance Committee of the Bundestag was incorrect. Unlike a false testimony before the committee of inquiry, for which criteria similar to a court case apply, this would not be punishable. "In my view, the Attorney General's Office has ruled out the possibility that the statement in the Bundestag was correct and that the later statement in the investigative committee was not true," notes Stoop. One thing is certain for him: the statements that Scholz made in Hamburg and in Berlin contradict each other. "We will therefore push for clarification all the more in the committee of inquiry."
For April 14, the PUA invited the first of 38 witnesses to comment on Scholz's statements in Berlin. A week later, the other 19 former members of the finance committee are to testify before the Hamburg PUA. The dates for the new witness hearings had become known over the weekend.
For Strate, therefore, a suspicion arises: The decision of the Attorney General to publish Monday and thus "to concede the former mayor of this city any amnesia is also an attempt to get at the work of the Parliamentary Committee of Inquiry, which the first witnesses to the former mayor's statements to the Finance Committee of the German Bundestag to exert direct influence."
The Hamburg committee is to clarify possible influence of leading SPD politicians in favor of the Warburg Bank. After Scholz's first meeting with the bankers in the town hall, the Hamburg tax authorities did not request a refund of 47 million euros in December 2016 because of wrongly reimbursed capital gains taxes to the bank. A second claim for a further 43 million euros was raised at the end of 2017 shortly before the statute of limitations on the instructions of the Federal Ministry of Finance.
Scholz and other witnesses on the committee, including his then finance senator and current mayor Peter Tschentscher (SPD), have always rejected the suspicion of political influence.
In "cum-ex" transactions, blocks of shares were moved 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.