Markus Braun led the once-vaunted fintech company Wirecard to a devastating crash. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.
Braun says German regulators not to blame in accounting fraud
German lawmakers are to question former Wirecard boss Markus Braun, the key witness in post-war Germany’s biggest corporate fraud case.
Mr Braun, who has aroused suspicion over his contact with German politicians and public authorities, read out a brief statement in which he denied any wrongdoing. He also said regulators were not to blame for the scandal which defrauded creditors of €3.2 billion (£2.9 billion). Mr Braun refused to testify, citing his right to remain silent under German law.
According to the Financial Times, Mr Braun said in his court statement: “I can’t understand why external regulators should be held responsible for failures here.” He further said that EY, the company’s long-time auditor, did not find any evidence for fraud, despite “extensive checks”.
Fabio De Masi, one of the lawmakers, told Reuters before the questioning: “Investigators see Braun as the ‘Godfather’ in the Wirecard fraud.” He added: “Who in government helped him? We want to know what happened.”
The electric payment company scandal embarrassed the German government after authorities ignored numerous signs of fraud and even lobbied for Wirecard. German finance minister Olaf Scholz, who is also responsible for the regulator BaFin, has been criticized alongside Angela Merkel for not spotting the company’s fraud and further defending Wirecards business against critiques. National authorities have denied any inappropriate involvement in the Wirecard fraud. Accusations have put German politicians under pressure ahead of national elections next year.
Despite Mr Braun’s lawyers’ attempts to allow him to testify by video, he was forced to attend the meeting in person, directly from custody and in handcuffs.
Mr Braun repeatedly tried to portray himself and Wirecard as the victim of a large-scale fraud. However, he himself is now seen by public prosecutors as a central figure in the company’s accounting fraud.
Mr Braun has been Chairman of the board of Wirecard for 18 years. While he was questioned in Berlin, police are still searching for Jan Marsalek, another former top manager at Wirecard and major suspect in the investigation.
Wirecard filed for insolvency at the end of June, after the company was accused of falsifying its balance sheets for years.