FILE PHOTO: German Finance Minister and Social Democratic Party (SPD) candidate Olaf Scholz before a televised debate of candidates to succeed Angela Merkel as German Chancellor in Berlin, Germany, September 12, 2021. President of Buenadnice 90 / Die Grünen Annalena Barbock, Prime Minister of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) and Christian Democratic Union (CDU) leader Armin Laszt and German Finance Minister and Social Democratic Party (SPD) candidate Olaf Scholz are three candidates tonight. Let’s compete in a televised debate. Michael?Kepler/Pool Via Reuters
September 15, 2021
BERLIN (Reuters) – German lawmakers will question Finance Minister Olaf Scholz over suspected failures at the government anti-money laundering agency next Monday, days ahead of a federal election in which his party is predicted to win.
Lawmakers said on Wednesday that Scholz would answer questions at a special meeting of the lower house of parliament’s finance committee on September 20, although it is unclear whether he will attend in person or remotely via video link.
Opinion polls show Scholz has a good chance of becoming chancellor in the September 26 vote, replacing Angela Merkel, who stands at the helm of Europe’s largest economy after 16 years.
Armin Laschet, the top candidate of the centre-right CDU/CSU bloc, has so far failed to translate Merkel’s high approval rating into support for her party, with Scholz’s SPD comfortably leading in all polls.
Prosecutors raided the finance ministry in Berlin last Thursday, as part of an investigation into why officials from the Cologne-based anti-money laundering agency FIU did not follow up on some leads, leading to Germany’s failures to tackle financial crime. highlighted.
The Ministry of Finance has said that the investigation focused on the still unidentified suspects at the FIU in Cologne and not on the members of the ministry, adding that the goal of the raid was to gather information about certain decisions of the FIU officials.
The timing of the raid, less than three weeks before the election, has fueled speculation about political motivation.
The Ministry of Finance oversees the FIU, although the agency is independent of political influence in its daily decisions.
Scholz himself tried to play down the raid, saying that prosecutors could also request information in writing and that everyone could draw their own conclusions as to why the decision was taken to search the Ministry of Finance.
This has prompted Lechette to apologize to Scholz for criticizing the prosecutor’s decision. Lachette also accused her political rival of undermining the rule of law and helping populists.
(Reporting by Holger Hansen and Michael Nienaber; Editing by Toby Chopra)