Germany. Scholz, not yet chancellor, already caught up in business

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Olaf Scholz, the chancellor in the making, is in turmoil, accused once again of complicity, at least passive, with the business community. The revelations published in the latest issue of the weekly Der Spiegel on the organization of tax evasion in the European Union (EU) highlight the restrictive role of the German finance ministry, which he has headed since 2018 , and point to its complacency, even its complicity with the financiers and managers of large groups. Spiegel investigators rely on thousands of documents they were able to recover with other European journalists as part of a partnership under the aegis of the European Investigative Collaborations (EIC) organization, bringing together several media Europeans, including Belgian Le Soir, Italian Espresso and French Mediapart.

The investigations focused on the detailed examination of the interventions of a group based in Brussels and charged by the EU with enforcing a “code of conduct” between authorities, on the one hand, financial giants or ultra-rich taxpayers. somewhere else. This system had been put in place in the aftermath of the LuxLeaks scandal, which revealed at the end of 2014 the workings of Luxembourg’s political-administrative systems which enabled multinationals such as Apple, Amazon, Ikea or Deutsche Bank to almost completely escape the law. tax.

The body has not really contributed to redressing “deviant behavior”, points out Der Spiegel with a consummate sense of understatement. On the contrary, ever more sophisticated methods of evading taxation have largely persisted, relying on the privileged relations of the masters of “tax optimization” with the highest authorities of the various Member States. Thus, fiscal dumping has not been reduced, but on the contrary has spread within the EU, underline the investigators. With the consequence of a continuous lowering of the level of corporate tax observed everywhere. And this singular feature: the rate of the latter is now approaching in several Member States the minimum tax threshold of 15% for large groups that has just been decreed internationally. Far from the secret boot to slam the tax evasion sometimes brandished by some, the measure and its very low rate function above all as an encouragement to dumping.

Opposed to enhanced controls

After the LuxLeaks scandal, Olaf Scholz was among those who opposed tighter controls on tax administrations. However, Brussels swore to have obtained better cooperation between European partners in order to establish “the greatest transparency”. Just a year ago, the German Ministry of Finance was challenged on the need to make public the state of its agreements with companies, as other EU countries did then. No question of communicating on “these agreements”, we said at Scholz. Because “they are part of tax secrecy”. The German minister demanded that the information exchanged between Member States not be the subject of any publication, “even anonymous”, notes Der Spiegel.

What is behind this singular lack of cooperation? The name of the minister has already crossed the most resounding financial scandals of the last decade. In the Wirecard affair, several hundred billion euros were embezzled under obscure conditions. Here too, challenged on the lack of control over the group which has become in record time the star index of the Frankfurt Stock Exchange, the Minister of Finance pleaded having ignored everything about the actions of the sharp leaders of the digital payments juggernaut, to whom he said, however, to give “all his confidence” a few months earlier. In the case of the Hamburg bank Warburg relating a few years earlier to tax advances, called CumEx, totally fictitious, but indeed reimbursed by the administration, the name of Scholz also appears.

The new link attached to this chain of resounding affairs should weigh heavily on the credibility of an Olaf Scholz Chancellor. “The results of its fight against tax fraud at European level are disastrous,” proclaims Janine Wissler, who co-chairs the Die Linke party. The SPD candidate for chancellery, she adds, behaved more “as a godfather of tax havens” than as their despiser.

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