“I had no knowledge”
Ex-Wirecard boss Braun rejects all charges
02/13/2023 12:02 p.m
For the first time since the beginning of the Wirecard process, former boss Markus Braun has spoken in detail and described his “very personal perception”. He claims he didn’t know anything. The scam was a “day of deepest regret”.
The former Wirecard CEO Markus Braun, who is on trial as a suspected billion-euro fraudster, rejects all allegations of the indictment. “I had no knowledge of counterfeiting or embezzlement,” said Braun in the Munich Wirecard process. “I also didn’t form a gang with anyone,” emphasized the 53-year-old on the 13th day of the trial in his first statement on the indictment since the trial began in December.
Braun also contradicts the key witness of the public prosecutor’s office, who has seriously accused his former CEO in the course of the process so far. The collapse of the former Dax group in June 2020 was “a real shock experience” for him, emphasizes the Austrian manager. “June 18 is still a day of deepest regret for me” – the fateful day on which the Wirecard board had to admit that 1.9 billion euros could not be found.
Bankruptcy followed and Braun was held in custody. The manager has been in prison for over two and a half years. Apart from that, Braun has lost almost all of his assets, most of which he had invested in Wirecard shares. The 1.9 billion euros were allegedly booked in trust accounts in the Philippines and are still missing today. Braun also expresses “deep regret” to the shareholders and his former employees in the company, which has meanwhile largely been wound up by the insolvency administrator.
Wirecard processes payments for porn and games
In the bunker-like underground courtroom, Braun wants to tell the Wirecard story from the beginning, he appears factual and serious. The business IT specialist has worked at Wirecard since the early 2000s. According to Braun, the company, which was still small at the time, earned its money mainly with commission fees for processing credit card payments on the Internet for “adult” – in German pornography – and games. Braun converted Wirecard into a listed company, and the climax of the meteoric rise as a German technology miracle was its inclusion in the DAX Oberliga of the Frankfurt Stock Exchange in 2018. There, Wirecard was at times worth more than 20 billion euros, and Braun, as the largest shareholder, became extremely rich.
But according to the indictment, it was based on lies and deceit. The Munich public prosecutor accuses Braun, his two co-defendants and several other suspects of commercial gang fraud. They are said to have invented sales in the billions, falsified the balance sheets and cheated the company’s lenders by more than three billion euros.
The invented profits were therefore booked as revenue from so-called third-party partners. These processed payments on behalf of Wirecard in countries where the Bavarian group itself did not have a corresponding license. The vast majority of these transactions are said to have been fictitious, without sham transactions Wirecard would have made losses, according to the indictment.
Key witness is “professional liar”
Braun by no means denies that there were criminals in the company, but according to his own words he had no idea of the manipulations. He had assumed that both the third-party business and the proceeds from it were “fully existent”. “I had no knowledge that these funds were embezzled.”
In the trial, defendant stands against defendant, because Oliver Bellenhaus, the manager who worked for Wirecard in Dubai until 2020, is the key witness for the public prosecutor’s office. He has heavily accused Braun in the course of the trial so far. According to Bellenhaus, Braun was a dominating boss who was fully involved in the billion dollar fraud and knew everything.
In the first part of his statement, Braun does not yet go into who the perpetrators were, who could have led the Wirecard gang. Braun’s defense attorneys have attacked key witness Bellenhaus as a “professional liar”. Sales manager Jan Marsalek, who has been in hiding since 2020, played a key role at Wirecard, as much is clear from Braun’s presentation right from the start. “There were a lot of talented young people in the whole group, but Marsalek really stood out,” reports Braun. “Marsalek felt like a stroke of luck at the time”. In the coming days and weeks, Braun will have to prepare for urgent questions from the court.