German prosecutors, who raided Berlin’s finance ministry last week, investigating alleged irregularities within the federal anti-money laundering agency, now face close scrutiny of their actions and their motivations.
A week before the German federal elections, the public prosecutor, who ordered the raid, is accused of a politicized campaign against Olaf Scholz, federal Minister of Finance and main candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SPD), who is in head of election polls.
Shortly before 10 a.m. on Thursday last week, three undercover officers and two prosecutors from the western city of Osnabrück arrived at the ministry on Wilhelmstrasse. They wanted to see the files relating to the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU), which is part of German customs, which is supervised by the Ministry of Finance.
Prosecutors say they were prevented from accessing the files by officials from the finance and justice ministries; the two departments dispute this and say that before handing in the requested files, they requested in writing the request for the file, which never arrived.
What looks like a daily bureaucratic feud has escalated into a full-scale political scandal between the center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU), which hangs out in the election campaign, and the SPD.
Choosing his words carefully last week, Mr Scholz said the request for the records could have been made in writing and “everyone can interpret for themselves” the approach taken.
” Neglect “
Three days later, in a weekend televised debate, however, CDU chief Armin Laschet presented the raid as the latest example of Mr Scholz’s neglect as finance minister. CDU finance campaign spokesman Friedrich Merz suggested that “people are starting to wonder if Olaf Scholz is really the right chancellor for Germany”.
Mr Scholz accused the CDU of distorting the facts of the case while SPD General Secretary Lars Klingbeil accused Mr Laschet and his party of “deliberately distorting the truth and spreading targeted lies to harm personally to Mr. Scholz ”.
“They are so panicked by the loss of power that. . . the CDU has been waging one of the meanest campaigns in decades, ”Klingbeil said.
Joining the SPD’s response, a close associate of Scholz posted documents online which he said prove it was a political smear campaign.
A press release issued by the Osnabrück prosecutor said the search in Berlin was aimed at establishing “whether the ministry leadership” was “involved” in illegal activities – in this case, the dropping of money laundering investigations. money after preliminary inquiries.
According to the court order justifying the raid, which Scholz’s aide posted on Twitter, the research focused on “third parties” at the FIU – which is based in Cologne – and not on anyone at the Ministry of Berlin Finances.
Escalating the feud further, SPD officials have come under fire for suggesting that the raids were orchestrated by Osnabrück’s chief prosecutor and the Lower Saxony State Minister of Justice, both members of the CDU.
Osnabrück prosecutors dismiss any allegations of political partisanship and threatened Scholz’s aide with his own legal process for posting confidential court documents online.
As the gap between the SPD and CDU narrows, it is likely that last week’s prosecutors raid will concern German prosecutors long after next weekend’s election.