MUNICH: Wirecard’s ex-CEO Markus Braun denied all charges against him and insisted he had no knowledge of the massive accounting fraud that brought down the German payments firm, as he took the stand for the first time on Monday.
Prosecutors accuse the 53-year-old of commercial gang fraud, market manipulation, false accounting and breach of trust for his role in the Wirecard scandal.
“I reject all the charges,“ Braun told judges at his trial in Munich.
The once celebrated company imploded in June 2020 after it was forced to admit that 1.9 billion euros ($2 billion) in cash, meant to be sitting in trustee accounts in Asia, didn’t actually exist.
Austrian-born Braun is in the dock alongside Wirecard’s ex-accounting boss Stephan von Erffa and Oliver Bellenhaus, the former head of Wirecard’s Dubai subsidiary.
Their high-profile trial opened in December, with prosecutors alleging that the trio invented revenue streams with third-partner companies to inflate Wirecard’s accounts and make the loss-making company appear profitable.
Braun, who has been in custody for over two years, has always denied wrongdoing. His defence team has instead painted fugitive former COO Jan Marsalek as the mastermind behind the fraud.
In his first lengthy address to the court, Braun on Monday said he “had no knowledge” of any fraudulent activities at Wirecard.
“Nor did I join together with others to form a gang,“ he added.
Wirecard’s downfall came as “a shock”, Braun said, describing his “deepest regret” for employees and shareholders.
Braun’s co-accused Bellenhaus, who has admitted to fraud and turned chief witness for the prosecution, offered a different version of events when he took the stand in December.
Bellenhaus told judges that Wirecard was “a scam” from the start with Braun “at the core of everything”.
Braun’s defence lawyers have sought to undermine Bellenhaus’s testimony, saying Bellenhaus was not a witness but “a main perpetrator in a gang whose sole aim was to embezzle money”.
Wirecard’s collapse sent shockwaves through Germany, damaging the country’s reputation as a financial centre and prompting an overhaul of market regulator Bafin.
The trial is set to run well into 2024. –AFP