In the cum-ex trial against Hamburg banker Christian Olearius, his defense lawyers rejected allegations of particularly serious tax evasion. “The defense is firmly convinced that Doctor Olearius is innocent and should be acquitted,” said lawyer Rudolf Hübner in Bonn. He accused the public prosecutor of having investigated incorrectly and of using “the narrative of a gang” that had nothing to do with reality.

Klaus Landry, another defense attorney for the 81-year-old, called the assumption that Olearius had formed a criminal gang “absurd.” Landry portrayed him as an honorable man.

The trial began on Monday with the reading of the indictment, and now the defense took its stand. The public prosecutor’s office accuses the 81-year-old of 14 cases of particularly serious tax evasion, two of which were attempts. The crimes essentially relate to the period 2006 to 2011 – i.e. the peak phase of the so-called cum-ex transactions (file number 63 KLs 1/229). According to the prosecution, the tax damage amounted to almost 280 million euros.

Defense lawyers insist that the defendant is ignorant

It is the first time that a representative of the top management of a bank has to answer in court in the largest tax scandal in the Federal Republic. Olearius is a personally liable partner of the private bank M.M. Warburg, he used to be your boss.

Ignorance plays an important role in the defense’s argument. Olearius did not know about the use of short selling and he would not have approved of its use, said attorney Landry. Short sales are a central element of cum-ex transactions, in which unpaid capital gains taxes (capital gains tax) were refunded and the state was thereby defrauded of a double-digit billion amount. “He never and never would have applied for the credit or even refund of capital gains tax that had not previously been withheld and paid,” said Landry.

The defense attorney also complained that his client had been irreparably prejudiced in public. The fact that Olearius was named as a separately prosecuted person in a Bonn court ruling against two British stock traders in 2020 and its confirmation by the Federal Court of Justice in 2021 was a prior judicial judgment. “The principle of ‘the benefit of the doubt for the defendant’ is no longer valid for him.”

The former CSU federal politician Peter Gauweiler also appeared as a defense attorney. He referred to Olearius’ diary entries from 2005 to 2011, which were, all in all, “evidently exculpatory.” Olearius noted that the legal admissibility of the transactions had to be carefully examined. He also emphasized his loyalty to the law.

Meeting with Olaf Scholz

In later diaries, the banker recorded that in 2016 and 2017 he met Olaf Scholz (SPD), then head of Hamburg City Hall and now Chancellor, three times in total. He tried to prevent his bank from having to pay back a lot of money to the tax authorities – the public prosecutor’s office in the Bonn case sees this as attempted tax evasion because false information was provided. Scholz has ruled out any political influence, but has claimed gaps in his memory about the exact content of the meetings.

The Bonn criminal trial continues next Monday, when the fourth defense attorney wants to respond to the public prosecutor’s allegations. Olearius wants to speak out himself on October 16th. A total of 28 days of negotiations are currently planned until March 2024.