Markus Braun asked one of his top employees at the collapsed payment company Wirecard to subsequently change internal accounting data, a panel of five judges at the Munich Regional Court heard on Wednesday.
Oliver Bellenhaus, a former Wirecard manager and key witness for the prosecution in a trial investigating one of Europe’s largest accounting scandals, has for the first time made concrete allegations that the then CEO Braun was directly involved in the fraud.
The former German blue chip collapsed in June 2020 after it was revealed that half of its turnover and €1.9 billion in cash did not exist. Braun, Bellenhaus and the former head of accounting at Wirecard, Stephan von Erffa, are accused of fraud, embezzlement and market and balance sheet manipulation because of the collapse.
Bellenhaus told the court that on “four to five occasions” Braun personally asked him to amend quarterly financial reports related to the outsourced operations in Asia that were at the heart of the fraud. On paper, these so-called third-party acquiring operations, overseen by Bellenhaus, were Wirecard’s most profitable line of business.
Braun’s attorney Alfred Dierlamm has stated that his client was not involved in any criminal activity. He has argued that the TPA operations were real and has accused Wirecard’s fugitive deputies Jan Marsalek and Bellenhaus of creating a “shadow structure” to siphon off money Wirecard owned.
Bellenhaus told the court Wednesday that the TPA operations existed only in his Excel files and that he and some colleagues used Braun’s knowledge to fabricate contracts, customer lists and transaction data.
Though the CEO wasn’t involved in the operational details, he was fully aware that the operations were sham and sometimes required subsequent changes to internal accounting numbers, Bellenhaus said. In addition to personal change requests, Braun also asked about Marsalek, von Erffa and others for adjustments to numbers.
Bellenhaus said that the changes requested by Braun resulted in frantic last-minute work because falsifying the required data was “an extremely complex process.” After Braun’s interventions, “I had to start all over again,” he said, adding that he often works under extreme time pressures to meet accounting deadlines.
He also said the changes Braun was asking for were often related to inflating business volume for a past quarter, or calling for fewer payments associated with the porn industry and more with the travel and airline sectors to attract auditors and investors soothe.
Bellenhaus told the court that some of Braun’s requested changes were unrealistic and implausible, adding that he had discussed those concerns with von Erffa, who shared them. “Two hours later I got a call from [von Erffa]Mark tells me that [Braun] want it that way. That’s why we did it that way.”
The process goes on.
https://www.ft.com/content/1aa06e23-9767-42cc-aa33-17212b287d58 Wirecard CEO “requires subsequent data change”