Former Wirecard boss Braun begins trial in fraud case rocking German establishment

The former Wirecard chief executive, who steered the payments company through its rise and spectacular collapse two years ago, was tried yesterday on fraud charges after a scandal rocked German politics and tarnished the country’s reputation.

Former CEO Markus Braun, 53, who has been in custody since his arrest in 2020, and two other executives at the defunct blue-chip company face fraud and market manipulation charges.

In his first public appearance in more than two years, Braun entered the courtroom without a word. Vienna-born Austrian Braun answered questions to confirm his identity. If convicted, the accused faces up to 15 years in prison.

Braun has denied misappropriating funds from Wirecard and has accused others of conducting a shadow operation without his knowledge. A verdict is expected in 2024 at the earliest.

Founded in 1999 and based in the Munich suburb of Aschheim, Wirecard’s fairytale rise transformed it from a payment processor for pornography and online gambling into a showcase for a new breed of German tech company capable of competing with the established titans of Europe’s largest economy.

It ousted Commerzbank in the German blue-chip index DAX and was worth $28 billion at one point.

Its demise embarrassed the German establishment, bringing scrutiny to politicians who backed the company and regulators who took years to investigate.

After allegations of wrongdoing by investors and journalists were staved off and German authorities successfully lobbied to instead investigate those who were scrutinizing its finances, Wirecard admitted in June 2020 that €1.9 billion was missing from its balance sheet.

The government of then-Chancellor Angela Merkel, which previously backed Wirecard’s bid for a takeover in China, briefly considered bailouting the company.

Within days, Wirecard became the first DAX member ever to file for bankruptcy, owing nearly $4 billion to creditors.

Prosecutors allege that Wirecard invented huge sums of bogus earnings to mislead investors and creditors and inflate the share price.

Prosecutors said Braun and other executives formed a gang to create a false image of Wirecard as a successful company when its finances were shaky.

Prosecutor Matthias Buehring said his management created bogus deals with partner companies under their control in Dubai, the Philippines and Singapore. The scam had Wirecard executives withdraw money from the company without proper controls and balance sheets in place. Former Wirecard boss Braun begins trial in fraud case rocking German establishment

Fry Electronics Team

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