No End in Sight: Wirecard Renewal as a Major Construction Site

The Fourth Criminal Chamber of the Munich I Regional Court has set 86 more trial days until December 19, 2024, as announced on Wednesday. The trial against former CEO Markus Braun, key witness Oliver Bellenhaus and former chief accountant Stephan von Erffa has been ongoing since the end of 2022. The chamber had originally scheduled a hundred hearing dates, the last of which would be in January. 10th

Wirecard collapsed in the summer of 2020 after auditors could not find 1.9 billion euros that should have been recorded on the balance sheet. The prosecution maintains that the money was never there.

As a criminal gang, Brown and others allegedly faked transactions to prop up the company, which was actually running at a loss. For this purpose, sales of billions were discovered, balance sheets were falsified and creditors were defrauded of three billion euros. The presumption of innocence applies to all those mentioned.

Reuters/Fabrizio Bensch

Brown has been in custody for nearly three and a half years

“no idea”

Braun, an Austrian business information scientist, was arrested nearly three and a half years ago. He sees himself as an innocent scapegoat. Braun sees the real culprits as ex-sales director John Marsalek, who Braun sees as a Viennese and a key witness, Bellenhaus, who is in hiding. According to security, they allegedly brought a huge amount of money to the site. “I knew nothing of any forgery or fraud,” Brown said during his first court appearance in February.

A rise with an obscene and shocking fall

Brown worked at Wireguard from the early days. The company, which was still small at the time, made its money mainly through credit card payments for pornography and online gambling. Braun turned Wirecard into a listed company, entering the top league of the Frankfurt Stock Exchange's DAX in 2018, a highlight of its meteoric rise as a German tech wonder. There, Wirecard was sometimes worth more than 20 billion euros.

The day the wirecart collapsed was “a real shock,” Brown said. After 1.9 billion disappeared, bankruptcy continued. Brown was taken into custody and lost all of his assets, most of which he had invested in Wireguard stock.

The British “Financial Times” (“FT”) discovered the balance sheet manipulation through years of research. “FT” journalist Dan McCrum was working on his research for the book “House of Wireguard” and described how he was led astray and threatened by wireguard men.

The key witness strongly incriminates Brown – and vice versa

Bellenhaus was previously in charge of Wirecard's business in Dubai and is now a key witness for the public prosecutor's office. Brown and Bellenhaus accuse each other: Brown's defense attorneys denied the allegations at trial. The missing money was allegedly transferred to the site by Bellenhaus and other criminals in the company without Brown's knowledge. Brown blamed Marsalek, saying the allegations affected his area of ​​responsibility. According to Bellenhaus, Brown was the all-dominating boss and was fully involved and all-knowing about the billion-dollar fraud.

BKA mugshot by Jan Marsalek in Germany on August 14, 2020

IMAGO/dts news agency

Marsalek left Austria. He is currently believed to be in Dubai.

From Bad Vöslau to Belarus, Russia, Dubai

Marsalek fled the spiral of the DAX group's collapse in 2020. With the hope of former FPÖ National Council member Thomas Schellenbacher and the then Federal Office for the Defense of the Constitution and Combating Terrorism (BVT), a jet was arranged at Bad Vöslau Airport, with which Marsalek flew to Minsk. This happened just days before an arrest warrant was issued against Marsalek.

Marsalek was later suspected of being in Russia, and some sources now believe Dubai is his location. In September, it emerged that Marsalek was suspected by British investigators of being part of a spy network for Russia. In Great Britain he is said to have financed and directed an agent group from Russia.

The wirecard process took twice as long as expected

Financial services provider Wirecard collapsed three years ago. Almost two billion euros were suddenly undiscovered. The investigation into the alleged fraud is still ongoing – twice as long as planned.

Everyone wants money

No trial witness could shed light on where the Wirecard money went. It is still not clear if there were any missing €1.9 billion – and if so, where they went. Instead, the demands are piling up. After the bankruptcy, creditors filed claims worth billions.

In addition, the Wirecard bankruptcy administrator wants to receive about one and a half billion euros in compensation from the auditing firm EY. A lawsuit was filed at the Stuttgart Regional Court in December. EY audited the group's balance sheets for years – now the auditors are being accused of systematically failing to audit the annual and consolidated financial statements.

Oliver Bellenhaus in the courtroom

APA/AFP/Christoph Stache

The key witness was Oliver Bellenhaus

The insolvency administrator is suing US investment bank Citi for 140 million euros. A few months before the bankruptcy, he had completed a stock purchase for Wirecard. Former CFO Burkard Ley also must pay back money to the bankruptcy trustee; This is on top of the roughly €815,000 Le received from Wirecard in 2020, despite his consultancy contract expiring at the end of 2019. The Munich public prosecutor's office filed charges against Le in mid-December. Among other things, he alleges falsification of accounting, market manipulation, fraud and breach of trust.

The witnesses pretended not to know

It's not just the confusing financial demands that complicate the process. Crime scenes in Dubai, Singapore, Philippines and other Asian countries are mostly in Asia making investigation more difficult. In the past few months, the court has summoned numerous witnesses from abroad but they have not appeared.

So far, mainly former employees of the former Wireguard headquarters in Aschheim, near Munich, have testified. However, Brown's former deputies said across the board that they knew nothing about the billion-dollar fraud.

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