BERLIN (AP) — German leader Olaf Scholz has denied intervening on behalf of a private bank embroiled in a tax evasion scam when he was mayor of the northern city of Hamburg, allegations that have dogged him since before he took office as chancellor last year.
Testifying Friday before a parliamentary hearing of Hamburg’s state assembly, Scholz insisted that the meetings he held in 2016 and 2017 with a representative of the private bank M.M. Warburg were above board. At the time the bank had been ordered to repay millions of euros (dollars) in tax refunds it had wrongly claimed for share trades.
Soon after the meetings, Hamburg officials dropped demands for Warburg to repay 47 million euros.
“There was no political intervention whatsoever,” Scholz told state lawmakers during the hearing, which lasted more than three hours.
Scholz, who became Germany’s federal finance minister in 2018, had previously stated that he didn’t remember details of the meetings, drawing criticism and incredulity from political opponents.
Friedrich Merz of the center-right Christian Democrats told the business daily Handelsblatt on Friday that when a big bank faces a large tax demand from the city and wants to meet with the mayor “then you don’t forget what was said during the conversation.”
Dozens of bankers are being investigated in connection with cum-ex share transactions that are said to have cost the German government billions of euros.