In the Wirecard trial, the key witness for the public prosecutor’s office accused ex-CEO Markus Braun as a key figure in a billion-dollar fraud. But the manager Oliver Bellenhaus, who worked for Wirecard in Dubai until the collapse of the group in 2020, said little concrete about Braun's exact role in the network today.
"Wirecard was a cancerous growth," said Bellenhaus, who was accused together with Braun, before the Munich Regional Court. "There was a system of organized fraud."
Braun was an "absolute CEO" (Chief Executive Officer) - the central power at Wirecard. "Dr. Braun made sure we were all sailing in the same direction."
Braun and Bellenhaus have been in custody for two and a half years. Third accused is the former chief accountant. "I didn't realize that I would go to bed with the rats and wake up with the plague," Bellenhaus said of his involvement in what is believed to be the largest fraud case in Germany since 1945 and the co-defendants; a sentence that the chairman Markus Födisch then reprimanded.
The public prosecutor accuses the three defendants and other suspects of forming a criminal gang of fraudsters and cheating the lenders of the Dax group, which collapsed in 2020, out of 3.1 billion euros with invented profits.
Bellenhaus shows remorse
The 49-year-old was the first of the three accused to testify on the third day of the trial. He is also the only one who admits the allegations: "I'm shocked about my own life." Braun denies the allegations through his lawyers, which Bellenhaus declared unbelievable. "He sees himself as a victim, and that's a familiar pattern."
However, Bellenhaus' statement did not reveal when the fraud began and how the alleged gang formed. Braun's defense, in turn, accuses Bellenhaus of lacking credibility and having embezzled millions of dollars in company funds.
"Big lies became big lies," Bellenhaus said about the beginnings of the criminal business. "Small lies became big lies, and big lies are punished." However, he reported on a meeting in October 2019 in which Braun attended and which was therefore about how Wirecard could protect the facade of invented transactions in the face of a special audit of the books by the auditing company KPMG.
Wirecard was a payment service provider that mainly processed credit card payments in retail and on the Internet. According to the indictment, Wirecard booked billions of dollars in invented "third-party partner" sales via the subsidiary Cardsystems Middle East in Dubai managed by Bellenhaus. These third-party partners were companies that processed payments on behalf of Wirecard.
The Dax group then collapsed in June 2020 because 1.9 billion third-party funds allegedly booked in Southeast Asian trust accounts could not be found.
Braun accuses Bellenhaus
In order for Braun to be convicted as a gang leader or even just a member, the public prosecutor's office must convince the court that he controlled the fraud or was actively involved. The manager has his defense attorneys explain that the missing billions actually existed, but that immense sums had been put aside by Bellenhaus, among others.
Bellenhaus categorically rejected this. According to Braun, the billions in the accounts of former business partners cited by Braun are at most a small part of Wirecard funds.
Braun's lawyer wants to end the proceedings
Braun's defense attorney Alfred Dierlamm wants to stop the process. He accuses the public prosecutor's office of having started investigating the actual payment flows much too late.
The parties involved in the proceedings would be flooded with new documents, said the lawyer - shortly before the start of the process 44,000 PDF pages, then another 11,000 pages. "The investigations that the public prosecutor's office missed in two years of proceedings and are now being carried out parallel to the ongoing main hearing are a bottomless pit," said the defense attorney. Dierlamm's second allegation is that the public prosecutor's office withheld essential documents from the defense.
The public prosecutor rejected the criticism. "The files on this indictment are complete," said the investigating authority on request. The billions cited by Braun and Dierlamm in the accounts of former Wirecard business partners relate to transactions that are not part of the indictment and are therefore irrelevant to the proceedings. The Chamber has not yet decided on the suspension request.