It was not only players from the financial world who were involved in the cum-ex scandal. Over time, more and more possible involvement of lawyers and politicians came to light.
The alleged involvement of prominent politicians, above all the current Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz, in the so-called “Hamburg Warburg affair” is particularly politically explosive:
In the past, the Hamburg-based private bank M. M. Warburg & CO was significantly involved in cum-ex transactions.
In 2021, the Federal Court of Justice ordered the bank to repay more than 176 million euros to the state treasury.
For this reason, co-owner of the bank Christian Olearius is currently on trial before the Bonn Regional Court for serious tax evasion; the bank’s former chief representative has already been sentenced to five and a half years in prison.
The allegations of possible political influence in this complex are basically as follows:
In February 2020, the weekly newspaper Die Zeit and the political magazine Panorama published their research on the statute of limitations for cum-ex reclaims.
According to this, the Hamburg tax office had reclaimed 47 million euros from M. M. Warburg & CO Bank in 2016, which stemmed from illegal cum-ex transactions.
In 2016 and 2017, Scholz, who was still Hamburg’s First Mayor at the time, and Olearius are said to have held several talks and personal meetings.
These were allegedly organised by Johannes Kahrs, who was an SPD member of parliament at the time.
Olearius is said to have argued in writing in favour of waiving the enforcement of the repayment claims against Warburg Bank.
During the talks, Scholz is said to have advised Olearius not to send this argumentation paper to the Hamburg tax office, but instead to send it directly to Peter Tschentscher, then Hamburg’s Senator for Finance and now Scholz’s successor as Hamburg’s First Mayor.
Evidence of these meetings and their content was found in Olearius’ diary entries and in chats and emails from a Hamburg tax official.
Shortly afterwards, the Hamburg tax office waived the claims for repayment and allowed the claims for repayment against Warburg Bank to lapse. The City of Hamburg thus lost 47 million euros.
Before the parliamentary committee of enquiry, Scholz initially denied having met with Olearius – he later changed his statement, but stated that he could not remember the details of the meetings.
In October 2020, the Hamburg Parliament then set up a separate Hamburg investigative committee to look specifically into the cancellation of the back tax claims for the benefit of Warburg Bank.
In 2022, Tschentscher had to give evidence to this committee of enquiry; the issue was what influence he might have had as the then Senator for Finance on the limitation period for the repayment claims.
As things stand, Olaf Scholz cannot be legally proven to have been involved in the cum-ex complex.
However, this could change if further details about the possible involvement of the Federal Chancellor come to light in the current criminal proceedings against Olearius.
In addition, the CDU/CSU parliamentary group in the Bundestag is currently in the process of bringing an action before the Federal Constitutional Court for the establishment of a further parliamentary committee of enquiry.
The investigation into the Warburg affair is therefore far from complete – it remains to be seen what further investigations will bring to light.