Osnabrück, Berlin The Osnabrück public prosecutor has initiated an investigation against the State Secretary in the Federal Ministry of Finance, Wolfgang Schmidt. The reason is the partial publication of a search warrant on Twitter, said a spokesman for the prosecutor on Tuesday.
This should concern essential parts of the search warrant. The proceedings had been handed over to the Berlin public prosecutor’s office. Schmidt wrote on Twitter on Tuesday that he was confident that the allegations could be quickly dispelled.
SPD Chancellor candidate Olaf Scholz defended Schmidt in the evening: “The State Secretary tweets a lot,” said Scholz on ZDF. “I can hardly understand what he is doing there in detail.” With the tweet, he wanted to point out that the searches were not about suspects in the ministries. From Schmidt’s point of view, the tweet was legally in order. “I can’t judge that because I’m doing other things now,” said Scholz. “But that is now being clarified in an orderly process and must also be clarified.”
In investigations against those responsible for Financial Intelligence United (FIU), a special money laundering unit of the customs, the Osnabrück public prosecutor had the Federal Ministry of Finance and Justice searched last week. Documents were also confiscated, as the public prosecutor announced. Since last year, the public prosecutors have been investigating a suspicion of thwarting punishment in office by the FIU.
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According to Schmidt, the impression arose that employees of the Federal Ministry were being investigated. “This false impression made it necessary for the public to get an idea of the facts for themselves,” he continued.
The Osnabrück public prosecutor’s office is investigating employees of the anti-money laundering agency FIU, which is indirectly located at the Federal Ministry of Finance. The accusation: The employees are said to have not forwarded suspicious transaction reports on terrorist financing in good time, so that investigators could not intervene.
In this context, there were also investigations in the Ministry of Finance – not because Ministry employees were accused, but because they wanted to get hold of e-mails between the FIU and the Ministry.
Problems known for a long time
According to the Osnabrück public prosecutor’s office spokesman, the corresponding Section 353d of the Criminal Code prohibits making documents from preliminary investigations, such as search warrants, public before they are heard in court. Schmidt is now accused of this.
Olaf Scholz had emphasized in the most recent Triell that the investigations had nothing to do with the ministry itself. Union Chancellor candidate Armin Laschet (CDU), on the other hand, pointed out that Scholz, as head of the ministry, was responsible for everything that went wrong in his house and in the subordinate authorities.
However, problems with the money laundering unit have been known for a long time. Even under CDU finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble, Scholz’s predecessor in office, there was criticism that the authority had too few employees and no access to relevant police databases. According to the ministry, Scholz increased the number of employees, and the FIU can now access the data from the Federal Criminal Police Office.
But experts assume that it still does not work effectively and that billions of euros of criminal origin are laundered in Germany every year.
The FDP, the Left and the Greens have requested a special meeting of the Bundestag finance committee before the election because of the investigation into the prosecution of money laundering. The accusations and investigative measures that have now become known achieved “a previously unimagined quality”, according to a letter to Bundestag President Wolfgang Schäuble (CDU), which the German Press Agency received on Tuesday.
Marco Buschmann (FDP), Jan Korte (left) and Britta Haßelmann (Greens) ask in the letter for the presence of Federal Finance Minister Scholz on September 20 or 22.
More: Follow the current developments in the federal election campaign in our news blog