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Monday, February 6, 2023

Three defenders are calling for the Wirecard trial to be suspended

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Like the main defender of the former Wirecard boss Markus Braun, his public defender and the lawyer for the co-defendant chief accountant Stephan von Erffa accuse the public prosecutor of serious omissions. Among other things, the investigative authority withheld extensive documents and only handed them in pieces later, criticized Erffa’s defense attorney Sabine Stetter in the hearing on Wednesday. This violates the right of the accused to a fair trial. In addition, it became known that Braun’s public defender Theres Kraußlach took the same line. The lawyer told Reuters that she submitted her application outside of the hearing.

Shortly after the trial began in December, Braun’s main defense attorney, Alfred Dierlamm, demanded that the court suspend the trial and instruct the public prosecutor’s office to conduct further investigations. Since then, he has repeatedly complained that the public prosecutor’s office was constantly showering the other parties involved in the process with new documents, which lawyers and judges needed a lot of time to evaluate. On the fringes of the hearing on Wednesday, Dierlamm said it was now tens of thousands of pages of computer data. According to the defense attorneys, the investigators should have provided the documents before the trial began.

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Timely decision

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It was initially unclear when the court would decide on the applications. A court spokesman said on the sidelines of the hearing that this should happen “promptly”. In circles of those involved in the process, it is not expected that the court will follow the applications and interrupt the process. However, the Criminal Court should provide very detailed reasons for a possible rejection of the applications, also in order to give the defense lawyers as little argument as possible for an appeal procedure. According to the law, the accused and their lawyers, as well as the public prosecutor’s office, can appeal a verdict, which is not expected until next year at the earliest.

Meanwhile, the presiding judge, Markus Födisch, continued to question the third defendant, Oliver Bellenhaus. The former governor of Wirecard is considered a key witness. He admitted involvement in the crime and made serious accusations against the two co-defendants. Braun’s and von Erffa’s defense attorneys have rejected the allegations.

Bookings “tailor-made” forged

Bellenhaus describes the events at Wirecard as joint accounting fraud on a large scale, for which billions were invented. Braun’s lawyer Dierlamm, on the other hand, speaks of misappropriation of existing billions behind the back of the 53-year-old Austrian. The public prosecutor accuses the three defendants of accounting fraud, market manipulation, breach of trust and gang fraud. The payment service provider Wirecard collapsed in June 2020 when it became known that 1.9 billion euros were missing from the till. The bankruptcy is one of the biggest financial scandals in German post-war history.

Bellenhaus was Wirecard’s governor in Dubai and, according to his own statements, falsified transactions with alleged third-party partners (Third Party Acquirers, TPA) at Braun’s request and in consultation with von Erffa. Bellenhaus demonstrated to the court on Wednesday, using an Excel spreadsheet projected onto the wall of the room, how he had falsified extensive postings that precisely matched the desired results. That was the basis of the fairytale profits reported by Wirecard. “That was exponential growth. That wasn’t realistic anymore.” At the same time, the payment service provider’s actual business was falling behind: “We had to do more and more TPA business because Wirecard was getting worse and worse.”

Bellenhaus described how management had tried for years to dispel growing public doubts about the Wirecard business. After initial accusations by the Protection Association of Investors (SdK) and a blogging journalist from the Financial Times, a report published in 2016 under the name “Zatarra” contained “very substantiated” allegations of fraud. Bellenhaus said that he and CEO Braun then invented denials. The board member Jan Marsalek, who has since disappeared, was also involved. “We came up with stories that it looks like it’s not true.” So you have pushed the blame for stock price slumps on short sellers. “It’s always been our tactic. Somebody has to be the culprit.”

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