Ex-Wirecard CEO goes on trial over ‘unparalleled’ fraud

Ex-Wirecard CEO goes on trial over ‘unparalleled’ fraud

Ex-Wirecard CEO goes on trial over ‘unparalleled’ fraud

Ex-Wirecard CEO Markus Braun goes on trial in Munich this week for his role in the collapse of the once celebrated payments firm, brought down by the biggest accounting fraud scandal in German corporate history.  

Austrian-born Braun and two other former Wirecard executives will appear in the dock from Dec. 8  on charges of commercial gang fraud, breach of trust, market manipulation and accounting manipulation.    

The Munich district court has scheduled 100 court dates for the mammoth trial.    

Wirecard, once hailed as a standard-bearer for the German tech industry, imploded spectacularly in 2020 after admitting that 1.9 billon euros ($2 billion) missing from its accounts probably didn’t exist.    

Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who was finance minister at the time, described the scandal as “unparalleled” in post-war Germany.     
Braun, who has been in custody for over two years, denies any wrongdoing.    

The 53-year-old has pointed the finger at Wirecard’s fugitive former chief operating officer, Jan Marsalek, a shadowy figure with alleged ties to foreign intelligence agencies.     

Marsalek was reported earlier this year to be hiding out in Russia.  

A senior Wirecard employee, however, told a German parliamentary inquiry last year that nothing happened at Wirecard without Braun’s knowledge.              

On trial alongside Braun are Oliver Bellenhaus, the former head of Wirecard’s Dubai subsidiary, and ex-accounting boss Stephan von Erffa.    

They face several years in prison if convicted.        

It took German investigators more than 20 months to unravel the complex web of fraudulent transactions implicating Wirecard subsidiaries and third-party companies across the globe.              

Founded in 1999, the Bavarian start-up Wirecard started out processing payments for porn and gambling sites and grew into a respectable electronic payments provider that edged traditional lender Commerzbank out of the blue-chip DAX index.