Germany’s Social Democratic Party (SPD) has accused its centre-right political rivals and current coalition partners the CDU of dirty tricks after raids on SPD-controlled ministries two weeks before the federal election.
On Thursday, prosecutors carried out the searches of the finance and justice ministries as part of an investigation into the financial intelligence unit (FIU), which investigates bank money-laundering.
The FIU has been part of the customs service since 2017 and under ultimate control of the federal finance ministry. Its minister is Olaf Scholz, SPD chancellor hopeful and frontrunner in polls ahead of the September 26th election.
Prosecutors in Osnabrück have been investigating the FIU since February 2020 over claims it failed to forward money-laundering cases to the police and judiciary.
“An evaluation of documents secured during previous searches of the FIU has revealed that there was extensive communication between the FIU and the ministries now being searched,” said the prosecutors.
The Berlin finance ministry said in a statement that it “fully supports the authorities” in their investigation and stressed that it was not directed against employees of the ministry.
Mr Scholz was less amused, telling journalists that the questions “could have been put in writing”.
“People should judge for themselves whether it was right to put [the questions] in a different way,” said Mr Scholz on a campaign stop in Potsdam, outside Berlin.
SPD sources criticised the raids, but also their timing, noting that the go ahead was given more than a month ago. Osnabrück prosecutors in the state of Lower Saxony insisted they acted independently of the CDU-run state government.
The CDU rejected claims of dirty tricks and insisted the operation on Thursday was part of a pattern of sloppy leadership at the finance ministry under Mr Scholz. CDU general secretary Paul Ziemiak pointed to last year’s collapse of financial services company Wirecard under the nose of the BaFin regulator, which also falls under the supervision of the federal finance ministry.
“There are a great many questions that the SPD candidate for chancellor must answer,” said Mr Ziemiak. “He must explain himself immediately.”
The opposition Green Party – a likely SPD coalition ally – joined the criticism of Mr Scholz. Its finance spokeswoman Lisa Paus said: “The chaos at the FIU has existed since the finance ministry took over responsibility.”