“Mr. Sauter, your speaking time has expired”

In the turbulent final debate, Sauter, a member of the Swabian state parliament, surprisingly countered and made serious accusations against the judiciary.

First loud arguments, then suddenly almost complete silence. The final debate in the state parliament on the mask affair follows its own dramaturgy on Wednesday night: first a sharp argument about the evaluation of the results of the committee of inquiry, then – as a surprising highlight – the appearance of the non-attached Swabian member of the state parliament and former Bavarian Minister of Justice Alfred Sauter (CSU).

The mask affair debate was originally scheduled for 1:45 a.m

It’s 9:17 p.m. More than seven hours of plenary session have already passed and MEPs are happy that things went faster than planned. Originally, the final debate on the mask affair was scheduled for 1.45 a.m. because a lot of unfinished work had recently accumulated. However, a few items on the agenda could then be dealt with in a hurry. Now everyone is excited. It is already clear that things will get violent. And then there’s Sauter, who was seventh on the list of speakers. What is he up to? Why is he breaking his long silence?

As the first speaker, another former Bavarian Minister of Justice has the floor. Winfried Bausback (CSU) chaired the investigative committee, which trawled through around two million sheets of files in just under a year and a half and heard 150 witnesses on the procurement of protective equipment in 45 sessions. His conclusion: The only goal of all actions of the state government was to save and protect human life. All procurements were made in accordance with law and order. And apart from the “moral misconduct” of the former CSU MPs Georg Nuesslein and Alfred Sauter, as well as “the private individual Andrea Tandler”, the general suspicion of nepotism or corruption in government procurement during the pandemic was “clearly refuted”.

The pitch changes abruptly when Bausback comes to the political assessment of the test results. He grabs greens SPD and FDP frontally, accuses them of operating with maximum polemics in their minority report, ignoring facts and spreading fake news. “How dare you!” (How dare you!), calls Bausback several times in the direction of his co-chairman Florian Siekmann (Greens) and says, alluding to the best man affair in the Federal Ministry of Economics: “In Berlin you practice what you do try to construct here. This is hypocrisy at its best.”

Siekmann: Good contacts in the State Chancellery were more important than certificates

Siekmann counters. The committee uncovered new facts about the mask shops. It became clear: “In case of doubt, good contacts in the State Chancellery were more important than valid certificates.” was “the prime example of CSU felt”. Nobody except the Free State of Bavaria paid the “moon price of 8.90 euros net or 10.60 euros gross”.

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Gerald Pittner (Free voters) Bausback jumps to the side. “Protecting life was the top priority of the state government,” he says. In the sometimes turbulent debate, however, spokesmen for the opposition take the same line as Siekmann before them. Gerd Mannes (AfD) says that the CSU “never had any real interest in investigating the dirty business”. Markus Rinderspacher (SPD) rejects the CSU’s criticism of the federal government. When CSU boss Söder speaks of “green corruption” with regard to Robert Habeck’s (Greens) ministry, “then we are dealing with his party’s mask affair with an immoral, dirty tsunami of political shamelessness”. And according to Helmut Kaltenhauser (FDP), the committee’s investigations have shown that there was preferential treatment for CSU members: “Those who can tap into the right political wires in Bavaria will also make progress.”

On February 25, the member of the Bundestag Georg Nüßlein lost his immunity. With the beginning of the mask affair, our research also started.

As different as the assessments may be, everyone agrees on one point: the behavior of Sauter and Co. is judged to be morally reprehensible.

At 10:38 p.m., Alfred Sauter steps up to the lectern, clearly nervous, and begins to counter-speech

The one thus scolded sat in his chair in the back row the whole time. At 10:38 p.m., he stepped up to the lectern, clearly nervous. In the investigative committee, he remained stubbornly silent. Now he starts to counter-argument. It’s suddenly dead quiet in the plenary hall.

It’s funny, says Sauter, that “a few bad guys are needed” now that everything has gone so smoothly. He asks why nobody asked why there was no protective equipment when the pandemic started. And he immediately gives the answer: “The pattern was such that those who tried to solve the dilemma for which political responsibility was to be found were pursued by using mediation and organizational contributions to ensure that the procurement of personal protective equipment has been made possible.”

Then ex-Justice Minister Sauter attacks ex-Justice Minister Bausback. He reproached him with the fact that the criminal proceedings that Attorney General Reinhard Röttle had instituted against him were “unlawful” according to the judgment of the Federal Court of Justice. “I shouldn’t have been investigated because there was no initial suspicion,” says Sauter, accusing Bausback of failing to mention it in the final report.

Why did the remuneration flow to Sauter via Liechtenstein?

Bausback asks counter-questions. Among other things, he wants to know why the payments to Sauter went via Liechtenstein. Sauter says nothing about this, but follows up because of the criminal proceedings. His four minutes of speaking time, which he is entitled to as a non-attached MEP, are over. Only thanks to a series of interim comments from the ranks of the deputies does it go back and forth for a little while. Gabi Schmidt (free voters) is outraged: “Mr. Sauter, you are ashamed!” Sauter is silent. SPD faction leader Florian von Brunn asks about the whereabouts of the money. Sauter asserts that all money is “either taxed or donated”.

After 14 minutes, the Vice President of the State Parliament, Wolfgang Heubisch (FDP), puts an end to the debate. He says: “Mr. Sauter, your speaking time is up.”

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