Deutschland

Ex-Wirecard boss in the Bundestag — investigator warns of eye contact with Braun

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Foto: REUTERS

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Tomor­row the long-time Wire­card boss Braun is to tes­ti­fy before the inves­tiga­tive com­mit­tee, as well as a key wit­ness from the pub­lic pros­e­cu­tor’s office. The inves­ti­ga­tors fear that the two will meet and pro­vide insight into their find­ings. Those con­vict­ed fraud by a court can, in par­tic­u­lar­ly seri­ous cas­es, be pun­ished with up to ten years in prison. For this pur­pose it must be proven, for exam­ple, that the machi­na­tions the accused result­ed in a “large-scale loss prop­er­ty”, that many peo­ple were harmed or that the per­pe­tra­tors act­ed “on a com­mer­cial basis or as a mem­ber a gang”. The Munich pub­lic pros­e­cu­tor’s office obvi­ous­ly assumes that this is the case in the case the for­mer Wire­card boss Markus Braun, which he firm­ly denies. Senior Pub­lic Pros­e­cu­tor Hilde­gard Bäum­ler-Hösl said in an email to the com­mit­tee that three for­mer exec­u­tives the for­mer Dax com­pa­ny, who were to tes­ti­fy before the Bun­destag inves­tiga­tive com­mit­tee, were charged with “com­mer­cial gang fraud.” “Accord­ing to the cur­rent sta­tus the inves­ti­ga­tion, Dr. Braun act­ed with­in the gang as a con­trol and steer­ing author­i­ty.” The let­ter is avail­able at n‑tv.de. The “Spiegel” report­ed about it first.

The lawyer describes Braun’s alleged behav­ior from the inves­ti­ga­tors’ point of view. The Aus­tri­an had built up a hier­ar­chi­cal sys­tem based on the prin­ci­ple of “divide and rule”, “which was char­ac­ter­ized by a com­rade­ly mil­i­tary corps spir­it and oaths of loy­al­ty to one anoth­er”. He had giv­en strate­gic instruc­tions and spe­cif­ic busi­ness actions. “When there were signs of devi­at­ing from the joint crime plan,” the 51-year-old, in coop­er­a­tion with the fleet­ing ex-Wire­card board mem­ber Jan Marsalek, act­ed on “the oth­ers” and “took advan­tage of the struc­ture char­ac­ter­ized by moti­va­tion and psy­cho­log­i­cal pres­sure”.

Invest­ment check How good are the chances of those dam­aged by Wire­card?

The back­ground to the mail is a dis­pute between Braun’s lawyer Alfred Dier­lamm and the Bun­destag as to whether the accused must appear in per­son as a wit­ness before the com­mit­tee or whether a video sur­vey is suf­fi­cient. Braun failed on Tues­day before the Fed­er­al Court of Jus­tice (BGH) in an attempt to have his trans­fer from cus­tody in Bavaria to Berlin pro­hib­it­ed. Accord­ing to the BGH, he said his ques­tion­ing in the Bun­destag was “dis­pro­por­tion­ate” because of the coro­na health risks. The 3rd Crim­i­nal Sen­ate reject­ed the request because the “mea­sures object­ed to were law­ful and, in par­tic­u­lar, not dis­pro­por­tion­ate with regard to the pro­posed pro­tec­tive mea­sures”.

Dan­ger­ous eye con­tact

The Munich pub­lic pros­e­cu­tor’s office also had con­cerns about an inter­ro­ga­tion in a Berlin par­lia­ment build­ing and request­ed a video inter­ro­ga­tion — albeit for dif­fer­ent rea­sons. Her “key wit­ness”, a for­mer man­ag­er of a Wire­card sub­sidiary, is also invit­ed. The mail allows the con­clu­sion that the chief inves­ti­ga­tor is con­cerned that a direct encounter between Braun and anoth­er accused on the one hand and the main wit­ness on the oth­er hand could “seri­ous­ly” endan­ger the inves­ti­ga­tion. E-Wire­card board mem­ber Marsalek is on the run. Accord­ing to pre­vi­ous knowl­edge, he had close con­tacts with secret ser­vices. The secu­ri­ty con­cerns in the case of the key wit­ness were “sig­nif­i­cant­ly more weighty than with regard to the oth­er two wit­ness­es,” wrote the pros­e­cu­tor. The key wit­ness had decid­ed, as the only accused so far, “to coop­er­ate ful­ly with the pub­lic pros­e­cu­tor’s office and not only bla­tant­ly admits his own involve­ment in inter­ro­ga­tions, but also explains the Wire­card sys­tem in detail”, where­by he “heav­i­ly bur­dened” alleged accom­plices. “Against this back­ground, any con­tact, even if only eye con­tact, would be dan­ger­ous for the inves­ti­ga­tion.” The key wit­ness is seen as a “trai­tor”. Braun’s lawyer Alfred Dier­lamm, who did not respond to a request from ntv by Wednes­day after­noon, had lodged an arrest com­plaint in Sep­tem­ber, which was not upheld. Accord­ing to its own state­ments, the pub­lic pros­e­cu­tor’s office also inves­ti­gates com­mer­cial gang fraud for breach of trust and mar­ket manip­u­la­tion. Banks and investors were defraud­ed of 3.2 bil­lion euros through tricks and decep­tions. Braun rejects any involve­ment and sees him­self as a vic­tim of the machi­na­tions because of his own hor­rif­ic finan­cial loss­es.

“You don’t play with a com­mit­tee of inquiry”

The oppo­si­tion wel­comed the BGH deci­sion. Left MP Fabio De Masi said the judges had sent Braun a clear mes­sage: “You don’t play with a com­mit­tee of inquiry.” Oth­er for­mer Wire­card man­agers had rec­og­nized the signs of the times and want­ed to make a com­pre­hen­sive state­ment, “pos­si­bly against Mr. Braun”. The Green MP Danyal Bayaz said: “As in his active time at Wire­card, Mr. Braun sent lawyers to use bogus argu­ments.” There is no under­stand­able rea­son for spe­cial treat­ment. Accord­ing to the FDP finan­cial expert Flo­ri­an Ton­car, Braun pre­sent­ed him­self as a pos­si­ble vic­tim of the pan­dem­ic in order to avoid appear­ing in pub­lic. “The risk that Mr. Braun expos­es him­self is the same for every­one. We are sit­ting in the same room.” The com­mit­tee chair­man Kay Gottschalk from the AfD had already said at the begin­ning of the week that the Bun­destag would do every­thing pos­si­ble to meet the secu­ri­ty con­cerns of the Munich pub­lic pros­e­cu­tor’s office and ensure that the wit­ness­es do not meet but have to get out of the way. In the mean­time it has been agreed that the key wit­ness and his ex-col­league, who is also in cus­tody, should be ques­tioned via video link. With Braun alone, the com­mit­tee insist­ed on an inter­ro­ga­tion in Berlin. The two oth­er wit­ness­es “coop­er­ate with the pub­lic pros­e­cu­tor’s office”, which was tak­en into account in the deci­sion. “In addi­tion, the com­mit­tee has deter­mined that we will ques­tion both wit­ness­es per­son­al­ly in Berlin again next year,” said the com­mit­tee.

Braun is now to be brought to Berlin on a pris­on­er trans­port, spend the night in a deten­tion cen­ter in the cap­i­tal and tes­ti­fy in front of the com­mit­tee on Thurs­day from 1 p.m. onwards. How much he will con­tribute to the clar­i­fi­ca­tion is open. It is very like­ly that the Aus­tri­an will not answer many ques­tions and will invoke his right to refuse to tes­ti­fy. He can refuse to make state­ments that could incrim­i­nate him in any process.

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