Ex-Wirecard boss Braun is accused of fraud worth billions. In court, the manager appears more in the role of a prosecutor who demands full clarification. Now the witnesses have the floor.
The first stage of the Wirecard trial has been completed after a quarter of a year: The Munich I district court ended the hearing of the former CEO and main accused Markus Braun on Wednesday. On the last day of his statement, the Austrian manager emphasized that the real perpetrators were others: “Compelling evidence” showed that the Dax group, which collapsed in 2020, had been deprived of two billion euros.
The taking of evidence begins on Thursday with the hearing of the first witnesses.
Account Statements and Emails
In the past four weeks, Braun has at times acted more as a prosecutor than as a suspect. He submitted several presentations and an extensive collection of bank statements, emails and other documents intended to support his thesis. Accordingly, the sham transactions accused by the public prosecutor’s office in the billions were not sham transactions, but real. “The evidence is overwhelming,” said Braun.
Wirecard collapsed because 1.9 billion euros allegedly booked in trust accounts in Southeast Asia could not be found. According to the indictment, this money never existed. The public prosecutor accuses Braun and his two co-defendants of having cheated banks and lenders by a total of more than three billion euros.
Braun presents it differently: Almost one billion euros are said to have been received in Wirecard Bank accounts, real proceeds from the allegedly non-existent business. In addition, around 900 million euros in company money are said to have been transferred to shadow companies. According to Braun, these companies were largely controlled by co-defendant Oliver Bellenhaus, the prosecutor’s key witness. Braun’s defense attorneys are calling for a detailed review of these payment flows.
Braun never claims to have been involved in illegal activities: “You use the field, but you never go beyond the edge of the field.” Key witness Bellenhaus, in turn, accused Braun of being fully informed and actively involved.
Witnesses should bring light into the darkness
The Chamber now faces the task of using the witnesses to shed light on the contradictory statements. Confronted with written witness statements from the investigation, Braun has so far referred to ignorance – whether it was bogus transactions, a loan in the three-digit million range without collateral or the publication of a misleading ad hoc announcement in April 2020.
“I have no original memory of that,” is a sentence that Braun has heard frequently over the past four weeks. Other formulations: “I cannot interpret this statement” or “I definitely cannot remember this statement”.
Infidelity and fraud are intentional offenses in German criminal law. A defendant must have intentionally broken the law. For example, anyone who acts recklessly without intent cannot be convicted of fraud or breach of trust.
Judge Markus Födisch is obviously skeptical about Braun’s ignorance. The chairman has tried several times to lure the ex-CEO out of his reserve: “I’m surprised that you don’t want to have any perception,” said Födisch once. Or also: “Do you understand what I’m saying, or don’t you even understand what I mean?”
In custody for over two and a half years
The main defendant, who has been in custody for over two and a half years, has not lost his composure. What really happened at Wirecard is unclear according to the statements made so far by Braun and the key witness.
A question that the chamber will have to deal with in the coming months: Could Braun have been a fraud and a fraud at the same time – a CEO who was himself involved in illegal transactions and at the same time was cheated by his accomplices? In addition, the court must clarify whether Braun is guilty at all.
During the first three months of the trial, it was mainly the defendants who had the floor. In the second phase of the trial, the taking of evidence will take much longer. The chief investigators of the police are invited as the first witnesses for Thursday.