In custody since July 2020, the former CEO of Wirecard Markus Braun was by formally charged by Munich public prosecutors with fraud, breach of trust and accounting manipulation following a criminal investigation into the German payments firm, according to multiple media reports on Monday (March 14).
Braun is accused of signing off on financial statements he knew were incorrect from 2015 to 2018, prosecutors said.
Charges were also handed down to Oliver Bellenhaus, a former managing director of a Wirecard subsidiary based in Dubai, and Stephan von Erffa, chief accountant and deputy chief financial officer, Bloomberg reported, citing unnamed sources from Handelsblatt newspaper in Germany.
Bellenhaus admitted his participation in the Wirecard wrongdoing and is cooperating with Munich prosecutors. Braun and von Erffa have denied all charges, Bloomberg reported.
“By the end of 2015 at the latest, it was clear to everyone accused that Wirecard AG was only making losses with the actual, real business, which would ultimately lead to insolvency,” prosecutors said. “With the publication of the significantly embellished numbers, those involved wanted to give investors the impression that Wirecard AG was a commercially successful and solvent company.”
Braun, who became Wirecard’s CEO in 2002, surrendered to German prosecutors on June 22, 2020 on a warrant as an investigation unfolded into €1.9 billion ($2.1 billion) discovered missing from Wirecard’s balance sheets. At the time of Braun’s surrender, he allegedly admitted to a scam involving others that manipulated numbers to look more appealing to investors and customers.
Founded in 1999, Wirecard was once hailed as one of Germany’s most significant technology success stories and among the most promising tech firms in Europe. Wirecard was valued at €24 billion at the height of its success, with a global workforce exceeding 6,000 in 26 countries.
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