Are you still looking for a summer read? Then I recommend this to you: A (german) crime novel that is non-fiction and at the same time easily surpasses the suspense of many true crime novels.

Multiple Failures in the Cum-Ex Scandal

Yes, this is not only possible, it actually exists. “Under the Eyes of the State” is the name of the book (written in German language) I recommend for your summer reading. If you think of “organised crime” as the betting mafia, drug cartels or arms smuggling – and mainly abroad – then this book is your chance to broaden your own perspective considerably. Because the theft of billions of taxpayers’ money – known as Cum-Ex – is taking place in Germany. It is not only happening with the active support of many a bank, but even at their initiative and on their instructions. After all, one wants to give creative advice to wealthy clients. Politicians, too, are conspicuously reticent. Starting with the Finance Minister Theo Waigel (here the obligatory remark: “The older ones among us will remember.”) and from then on concerning every other finance minister. Whereby restrained here is synonymous with conducive.

A serious summer reading

Now, I do not want to explain in a blog what Cum-Ex is. For that you can read pages 54-64 in the book. Those, by the way, are the only parts of the book that are really demanding. Which is an unmistakable sign that the so-called financial trick is already somewhat complicated. Whereas financial trickery comes across as very trivialising. It is, after all, tax fraud, knowingly and willingly. And the corresponding procedure – from the emergence of the idea to the bursting of the Cum-Ex bomb – is masterfully described by journalist Massimo Bognanni. The member of the research network of WDR, NDR and Süddeutscher Zeitung interweaves two narrative levels.

On the one hand, there is the level of state failure, where nothing happens to stop the fraud despite numerous indications. And on the other hand, there is the level around the Cologne public prosecutor Anne Brorhilker, who uncovers the Cum-Ex business through investigations. These two levels are built up layer by layer – one chapter state failure, the next public prosecutor’s office and so on. This makes it very easy to follow the parallelism of events, which does not always have to be chronological, while reading. Massimo Bognanni is not neutral in this. He does not pretend to be. His sympathy belongs to the Cologne public prosecutor who, with risk, skill and tenacity, blows the whistle on the industry – and that is what the Cum-Ex business has become in the meantime. It becomes clear when reading: It could have gone wrong. And from the point of view of the fraudulent investors it did, after all.

“It only needs the right people in the right place”.

The author describes the quintessence of his book on page 6: “[…] to show that the state can be quite defensible, even against a globally operating tax mafia. It just needs the right people in the right place.” The last sentence does not only apply to the state.

The book is not only exciting and informative, it also prepares you well for the near future. For this summer reading sets you up perfectly to follow the trials around this fraud that will soon begin – and almost certainly further revelations as well.

I wish you a factually exciting summer.

Frank Wippermann

picture: book cover, dtv