A job at the payment processor Wirecard was once considered prestigious - the bomb bursts when almost two billion euros are suddenly gone on the balance sheet. Since there is still no trace of ex-manager Jan Marsalek, the eyes are on ex-CEO Braun. He is now stepping into the limelight - at the opening of his criminal trial.
In the largest fraud case in German post-war history, the criminal trial against former Wirecard CEO Markus Braun will begin shortly. The Munich Higher Regional Court announced this today. The Munich I Regional Court has therefore allowed the Munich public prosecutor's office to charge Braun and two other former Wirecard managers unchanged.
The main accusation against the businessmen is commercial gang fraud. Braun has been in custody since July 22, 2020. The Higher Regional Court did not give any details. It was initially unclear on which day the trial should begin, how many witnesses should be summoned and how many trial days the 4th criminal division of the district court wanted to schedule. The possible maximum penalty for particularly serious cases of fraud is ten years imprisonment. A conviction requires that the accused acted with full intention - there is no criminal offense of negligent fraud.
According to the indictment, Braun and his accomplices have falsified Wirecard's balance sheets since 2015 and damaged lending banks by a total of 3.1 billion euros - of which 1.7 billion euros in loans and a further 1.4 billion in bonds. In June 2020, the former Dax group collapsed after the audit of the annual financial statements revealed sham bookings of almost two billion euros, the money is still missing today.
In addition to Braun, the former Wirecard head of accounting Stephan Freiherr von E. and the former head of a Wirecard company in Dubai, Oliver B., are accused. The heavily accused former Wirecard board member Jan Marsalek has been in hiding for two years. According to research by the "Süddeutsche Zeitung" and the independent Russian investigative platform "Dossier Center", he could be living in Moscow under the protection of Russian secret services. As the "Süddeutsche Zeitung" reported on Tuesday, this should be proven, among other things, by a Russian passport with a photo of Marsalek and other information - including even pictures.
The ex-CEO Braun, who comes from Austria, had meanwhile rejected the allegations of the prosecution about his lawyers. Braun sees himself as a victim of criminal activities. The former billionaire Braun himself was ruined by the collapse of his company because he had invested almost his entire fortune in Wirecard shares. Not only banks and investors were harmed, but also tens of thousands of shareholders. After its rise to the Dax on the stock exchange in 2018, Wirecard was temporarily worth more than 20 billion euros, this money has evaporated.
The alleged fraud damage of more than three billion euros in absolute figures and not adjusted for inflation exceeds all cases that have become known in Germany since 1945. The previous "record holder" was the Baden company Flowtex, which caused fraud damage of two billion euros with the sale of non-existent drilling machines in the 1990s. In the VW scandal, the follow-up costs for the Wolfsburg group were much higher at around 30 billion euros, but it was not about financial fraud.