It had to be done pretty quickly at the end of 2018, with the toll. When officials, lawyers and representatives of the operators met on December 30th, a Sunday, in a Berlin law firm to sign the toll contracts, the time pressure was great. Federal Transport Minister Andreas Scheuer (CSU) wanted to push through his party’s controversial prestige project before the turn of the year in order to use the billions approved by the Bundestag. The minister wasn’t there, but his people kept him informed. With e-mails that raise serious suspicions in the Bundestag committee of inquiry into the toll debacle. MPs feel shaken by Scheuer’s documents.
At the center is ex-Secretary of State for Transport, Gerhard Schulz, called Mr. Maut in the ministry. On New Year’s Eve at 10:48 a.m. he sent the email that has raised many questions since it became known in the summer. “That’s a good thing now. I’ll send it to Min directly to his private email,” the top official noted in an email about details of the toll contracts. What sounds banal is becoming more and more of a problem for Schulz, but also for Scheuer. “The evidence that Andi Scheuer used an additional private e-mail address for his official business is pretty strong,” says Green Group vice-president Oliver Krischer. “That would have lied to the investigative committee one more time.”
Mautplaner Schulz, meanwhile head of the toll group Toll Collect, had to answer for his central role in the toll on Thursday at an appearance before the committee. The appearance made a deep impression, because the toll planner admitted that he and Scheuer tried to suppress the bidders’ too expensive offer during secret talks with the bosses of the operators – apart from the official negotiations. The ministry had concealed the meeting at the beginning of the investigation from the Bundestag. They were initially not documented in the toll files either.
It is similar with possible emails from private addresses. So far, the investigators have not found any toll emails about private accounts in the documents made available by the Ministry of Transport. Schulz presented such communication in the evening as a misunderstanding. He meant the personal office address of Scheuer. The Spiegel had previously reported on the use of a GMX account on the subject of tolls.
The ministry had recently always denied that important information about the toll ended up on other than the official accounts of the minister as head of department and member of parliament. It rejected this again on Thursday: “The electoral district delegate and Federal Minister Andreas Scheuer can be reached in various ways,” it announced and announced statements during the minister’s questioning at the end of January. “Federal Minister Scheuer will be in the investigative committee on January 28th. There he will answer questions from the MPs.”
Now it could get even more uncomfortable for Scheuer
Scheuer had initially denied that toll e-mails ran through his Bundestag member account and had to row back later. His ministry delivered the documents in question to the committee and blamed an “office mistake” for it. In the meantime, an investigative officer of the committee is investigating whether Scheuer has really made all the mails from this mailbox available.
Now it could get even more uncomfortable for Scheuer. The members of the toll committee are investigating the question of whether the ministry wanted to delete the reference to the private channel from the files. Because the MPs searched the documents again. The email exchange around New Year’s Eve appears in several places. However, there is only one piece of paper indicating the private account – the email is missing in other documents. MPs ask themselves: Was it removed to cover up the existence of the account – and only forgotten once? They hope for information from the Scheuer interrogation in two weeks at the latest.
The committee of inquiry has been working on the issues surrounding the failed car toll for a year. The European Court of Justice (ECJ) stopped the CSU prestige project in June 2019 as illegal. Scheuer is under great pressure because he had signed multi-million dollar contracts to introduce the toll before there was even legal certainty. This could cost German taxpayers dearly. The operators are demanding compensation of 560 million euros from the federal government. In the evening, ex-Transport Minister Alexander Dobrindt (CSU) should testify before the committee. The opposition sees him as part of the responsibility.