Finance Minister Olaf Scholz, frontrunner in Germany’s election, canceled campaign events Monday to answer questions from lawmakers on Monday over an investigation of a unit of the country’s customs service that resulted in a recent police search at his ministry.
Scholz and his Social Democrats have raised questions over the necessity and motivation of the Sept. 9 searches at his ministry and the justice ministry, which also is run by his center-left party.
Outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel’s center-right Union bloc, which polls show trailing by a few points before Sunday’s election, has seized on the searches and on Scholz’s reaction to assail the candidate.
Opposition parties called a special meeting of parliament’s finance committee to discuss the matter and following criticism over reports that he likely would only testify by video link, Scholz appeared in person, canceling campaign events in Germany’s southwest.
Investigators are looking into suspected obstruction of justice by unidentified employees of the Financial Intelligence Unit, or FIU.
They say they have been investigating since last year because indications of possible money laundering from banks to the FIU weren’t passed on to police and judicial authorities.
The finance ministry ultimately oversees the unit, and says the suspicion of wrongdoing isn’t directed against its own employees. It says Scholz has reinforced the FIU since becoming finance minister in 2018, and that its head was replaced that year.
Opponents have long pointed to other events that have taken place on Scholz’s watch, such as the collapse last year of payment processing company Wirecard.