At first glance, the latest news in the Wirecard case is good: it's finally coming to court! Dates will soon be set for the first criminal trial in this fraud scandal, in which authorities and auditors made a fool of themselves, cost investors and banks billions of euros and severely damaged Germany's reputation as a business location. Markus Brown will sit in the dock, the longtime CEO and the face of the payment service provider. Next to him is Oliver Bellenhaus, key figure and key witness and, according to his own statement, one of the organizers of the scam. And Stephan E., the former head of group accounting.
The dimensions are still difficult to understand two years after the Wirecard bankruptcy, although the process will only show a part of what really happened. 700 volumes of files, 42 terabytes of data, hundreds of people and companies from countless countries, investigations from Germany to Singapore, condensed into 474 pages of indictment. Everything is said to have been a big lie, Wirecard's rise to investor darling, rapid growth. The spectacular sales and profits: made up, embellished, invented by 2015 at the latest; 1.9 billion euros in trust accounts that are said to have never existed. Commercial gang fraud over 3.1 billion euros: Even the VW emissions scandal can hardly keep up.
Because it is so important and because the Wirecard bankruptcy electrified the whole country, the process will District Court Munich I be charged with expectations that criminal proceedings cannot fulfil. The interested public may finally want to know more about what really happened at Wirecard over the past two decades; Thousands of deceived shareholders finally want answers to the many questions that are still open despite the investigative committee and intensive media reporting.
However, the criminal trial is only intended to soberly clarify the individual criminal responsibility in the sense of the indictment. This main hearing has to do that. There is enough room outside the courtroom for everything else. Despite all the evidence and all the logic by which one can consider Markus Braun to be a criminal, there must be no prejudice. He objects to each of the allegations and deserves a trial just as fair and open as any other defendant.
It is fortunate that this process is happening at all. This is thanks to persistent journalists and stock market professionals, who were not intimidated and continued to put their finger in the wound until the swindle could no longer be denied and a sham corporation was done with.
The public prosecutor's office had early indications of criminal activities. But she only really got started when the company was already in ruins
It's worth taking a second look at the news of the admitted indictment here - a look back. Because the proceedings against Braun and the other two come too late. It stands at the end of a collective failure that must not even begin to be repeated: the financial regulator Bafin left Wirecard alone, reported journalists for no reason and, after the collapse of the group, talked its way out with regulatory dodges. The auditors did the job to rule and let themselves be taken in like naive children. The public prosecutor's office had early indications of criminal activities and, at the latest since the beginning of 2019, a wealth of material pointing to extensive forgery. But she only really got started when the company was already in ruins. That the former executive and prime suspect Jan Marsalek was able to flee and will not have to appear before a German court in the foreseeable future: That is a mistake made by the public prosecutors that can no longer be healed.
For this very reason, while all eyes are on the process, investigators must not let up now. In the cause Wirecard there are still many dark corners: the whereabouts of Marsalek, secret service connections, mysterious accounts and dubious payment flows, mailbox and front companies, Wirecard as a suspected money laundering facility for sales from Internet fraud, prohibited gambling and other illegal businesses. Thoroughly illuminating all of these corners is what prosecutors owe the victims of fraud and the public.