The FIU is Olaf Scholz’s weak point

Olaf Scholz

The Federal Minister of Finance wants to have as little as possible to do with the FIU.

(Photo: imago images / Jan Huebner)

The discussion about the inadequate fight against money laundering in Germany has come to a point where some campaigners like to see it: in the legal jungle, in which any assessment is difficult. After public prosecutors searched the Federal Ministry of Finance, the Union’s candidate for chancellor, Armin Laschet, accuses his social democratic opponent of not having his shop under control and of falling asleep while fighting money laundering, of all places.

In the Triell, Scholz tried to push the unpleasant matter as far away from himself as possible, to an “authority in Cologne”. The anti-money laundering unit Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) located there belongs to the customs and is therefore subject to Scholz.

Laschet accused the Federal Minister of Finance of wanting to shirk responsibility, even though he has technical supervision over the FIU. SPD campaigners use this as an opportunity to accuse Laschet of lying. The Federal Ministry of Finance only has legal supervision.

To cut it short, both sides are right. The Ministry of Finance has the technical supervision for certain areas, but only the legal supervision for the processes affected by the public prosecutor’s investigations. In this respect, Laschet expressed himself imprecisely, the accusation of malicious lies, however, is quite exaggerated and rather speaks for nervousness among the SPD.

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In any case, these legal subtleties are irrelevant for the political assessment. One thing is clear: Scholz bears political responsibility for the situation at the FIU. It is also true that he inherited the construction site from his predecessor Wolfgang Schäuble, who once brought the FIU from the Federal Criminal Police Office to customs.

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Scholz likes to emphasize what he has done to strengthen the FIU since then: new head of the agency, more staff, more powers, better equipment. But anyone who praises himself for all these improvements cannot pretend that the authorities’ problems are none of his business. The responsible trade unionists are rightly annoyed that Scholz is slimming his feet and only refers to employees in Cologne.

Scholz’s reaction to the process seems ignorant. This also applies to suggestions that there could be party political motivation behind the searches. So things get bigger and bigger. It is actually quite simple: Scholz has tried in three years to improve the situation at the FIU – but that was not enough.

More: The five big controversial issues in the Triell – entrepreneurs see Laschet ahead.