Scholz is under pressure in a tax affair in Hamburg

BERLIN / HAMBURG According to left-wing chairman Norbert Hackbusch, the investigation files available to committee members show that over 200,000 euros in cash were found in a locker belonging to former Bundestag member of the SPD, Johannes Kahrs. It was first reported by the newspaper “Bild”. Kahrs was not yet available for commentary.

According to the responsible public prosecutor in Cologne, “no amounts of cash were found”. In general, this only works if there is a specific suspicion that the money comes from crime – and if it is expected to be later confiscated by a court. Law enforcement did not say whether cash was found.

One thing is for sure: it is not illegal to accumulate so much cash. However, observers of the tax scandal in Hamburg consider the Kahrs case to be at least questionable. Former leftist Bundestag member Fabio De Masi tweeted: “Either Kahrs proves the origin of the money or he is invoking his right to remain silent over the Cum-Ex investigation against him.” In the latter case, De Masi concluded, it goes without saying that the money was linked to the cum-ex affair “and the chancellor has a problem too.”

Scholz himself did not know anything about a possible larger amount of cash in Kahrs, his spokesman emphasized. This may rule out. Nevertheless, the chancellor will have to deal with his Hamburg past again.

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As the citizenship inquiry committee is trying to clarify whether there was a political influence on tax decisions when Scholz was the first mayor of the Hanseatic city. Shortly after Scholz met with Warburg Bank co-owner Christian Olearius, the tax authorities initially waived the tax refund in tens of millions. Later, the bank had to pay off over 176 million euros in wrongly refunded taxes due to a court order.

Bank Warburg was involved in the so-called the “Cum-Ex” scandal. The financial players moved their share packages around the dividend day in a complicated system in such a way that they got a refund of taxes that they never paid.

At his first committee hearing in April 2021, Scholz denied any political influence on the case. However, he no longer remembered conversations with the bank’s shareholders. Kahrs is under investigation for favoritism. In September his apartment was searched and – as we know from the files – a locker was also found.

While there is no link to the bank with the money found, CEO Linken Hackbusch said. However, it is known from Olearius’s diaries and committee interviews that “Mr. Kahrs has been involved in many activities in relation to Mr. Olearius, knowing that he had already been led into suspected serious tax evasion.”

As a member of the Bundestag in Berlin, Kahrs was considered a gifted twine puller. As spokesman for his parliamentary group in the powerful Committee on Budgets, he regularly directed public funds to his constituency in Hamburg. After losing the race to become military commissioner, a spokesman for the more conservative SPD, the current Seeheimer Kreis, resigned from all political offices.

According to Olearius’s diaries, Kahrs was also the one who initiated the banker’s meetings with Scholz in 2016 and 2017 and made contact. The discovery of cash puts this commitment in a new light, said Hackbusch. “Why else should you undertake such activities for the benefit of a tax robber who was already known at the time?”

CDU chairman Richard Seelmaecker also refers to the donations that flowed from the banking community to the SPD. In 2017, affiliates of the Warburg Group donated a total of 38,000 euros to the center of the SPD Kahr district in the center of Berlin. EUR 7,500 went directly from the bank to the state association of the SPD. The question now is whether further payments have been made in addition to those already known, said Seelmaecker.

Overall, there is a growing body of evidence that “key SPD politicians in Hamburg have unlawfully influenced the Warburg tax affair,” CDU member Mathias Middelberg told the Tagesspiegel. The leader of the Hamburg CDU, Christoph Ploß, demanded explanations from Scholz and the SPD at the federal level. “It is not at all clear where the Kahr got the money from and to what extent the social democratic network in Hamburg benefited from these events,” he told “Spiegel.”

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