Germany: Pressure grows on Scholz over tax scam ties

Germany’s main opposition party has called on Chancellor Olaf Scholz to explain his role in a large-scale tax evasion scam while he was mayor of Hamburg.

Scholz has been dogged by questions about meetings he had with private bank M.M. Warburg in 2016 and 2017. Hamburg officials later dropped demands for the bank to repay millions of euros in tax refunds it had wrongly claimed for share trades.

Dozens of bankers are being investigated in connection with so-called cum-ex share transactions that are said to have cost the German state billions.

Scholz has denied wrongdoing and claimed not to recall details of his meetings with Warburg. But Thorsten Frei, a leading lawmaker with the center-right Christian Democrats, said recent revelations about 200,000 euros in cash being found in a safe belonging to a close party associate of Scholz raise further questions about the cum-ex affair.

“Olaf Scholz needs to explain himself,” Frei said in an interview published Thursday by German media group RND.

The chancellor is holding his first annual summer news conference in Berlin on Thursday, during which the issue is likely to feature prominently.

Scholz, who was finance minister under Angela Merkel from 2018 to 2021 and became chancellor last December, will also face questions over Germany’s support for Ukraine, his government’s efforts to tackle inflation and a looming energy crisis and the coronavirus pandemic.

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