Most things come out sooner or later. In Lower Saxony, however, it is still difficult to clarify an outrageous process that took place a few days before the 2021 federal election in September between the Osnabrück public prosecutor’s office and the federal ministries of justice and finance.
The focus is on the question of the independence of the German judiciary. On September 9, investigators from Osnabrück went to the SPD-led federal ministries of justice (Christine Lambrecht) and finance (Olaf Scholz) to confiscate documents. The background was investigations into the anti-money laundering unit of customs, the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU).
The fact that the state had searched the offices of SPD chancellor candidate and then finance minister Scholz a few days before the election caused a stir. The SPD saw the action as a nasty political foul. Because the driving force behind the search, the head of the Osnabrück public prosecutor Bernard Südbeck, was and is a member of the CDU.
There was a suspicion that the raids were primarily intended to publicly discredit the leading SPD figure in the polls shortly before the election.
Since then, the bad foreboding has been nurtured rather than weakened. In February, the Osnabrück Regional Court issued an opinion calling the searches “disproportionate”. The district court sharply criticized the fact that a district court had ordered the raids: The decision was likely to “do not inconsiderable damage to the reputation of the Federal Republic and its institutions”. After the searches, it turned out that the documents on money laundering investigations had long been available to the investigating authorities in Osnabrück.
A press release from the Osnabrück public prosecutor’s office, which was published after the search, also caused irritation. There the impression was created that the investigations were also directed against senior employees of the ministries – i.e. up to Scholz himself. But that was never the case. The statement was removed from the public prosecutor’s website earlier this year. However, that is not the end of the matter. The affair continues to the present – and will probably also play a role in the upcoming state election campaign in Lower Saxony.
On June 8th, the public prosecutor’s office in Osnabrück received another swatter. A lawsuit by the federal government regarding the controversial search was heard before the administrative court in Osnabrück. The ominous press release was also discussed. The administrative court declared this to be unlawful. But who actually wrote the text?
That is just one of the questions that Julia Willie Hamburg, leader of the Greens in the state parliament, addressed to State Minister of Justice Barbara Havliza (CDU). She had already sent the minister an extensive catalog in February. The answers took almost five months to come. Now they trundled in, on a total of 34 pages. The bundle is available to WELT.
Who is behind the questionable press statement is ultimately not answered. It was already known that Havliza had been informed five days earlier about the planned searches by the public prosecutor’s office, which she “took note of” but did not follow up. However, the answers show that the police and superior authorities were also informed in advance about the searches. Exactly who, of course, remains open.
“The answers from Minister of Justice Havliza are unsatisfactory,” comments the Hamburg faction leader to WELT. She hovers over things as politically responsible and presents herself “as a more or less uninvolved third party”. Havliza also maintains that there was a risk of evidence being lost in the federal ministries – which was never the case.
“Unfortunately, the Lower Saxony justice minister’s interest in clarification is almost zero in every respect,” criticizes Hamburg. The Greens are now considering requesting access to the Ministry of Justice’s files on the entire process at the next meeting of the Legal Committee in the state parliament. The processing of the raids in Hanover will soon be in the next round.
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