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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 of 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 of the accused resulted in a “large-scale loss of property”, that many people were harmed or that the perpetrators acted “on a commercial basis or as a member of a gang”. The Munich public prosecutor’s office obviously assumes that this is the case in the case of 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 of the former Dax company, who were to testify before the Bundestag investigative committee, were charged with “commercial gang fraud.” “According to the current status of 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. Ex-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.