Berlin (dpa) – It’s a scene like a big court case, but it takes place in the German Bundestag: a prisoner in remand is brought before the frenzied click of the cameras.
A court decided that the former head of the scandalous group Wirecard must personally testify before the Berlin investigation committee.
It’s about the unprecedented collapse of a stock market star, probably the largest fraud case in postwar German history, and a possible political mess. Wearing a dark blue suit with a dark blue turtleneck and a slim voice, Markus Braun answered MPs’ tireless questions on Thursday and said: almost nothing.
It starts off very promising: “My name is Markus Braun, I’m 51 years old, I currently live in Augsburg JVA,” says the business IT specialist. What it doesn’t say: Braun is considered to be one of the main culprits in the mega fraud scandal, in which German fintech company Wirecard is said to have booked billions in fake transactions over the years.
The deputies do not at all expect the former manager to admit possible criminal activities here on the committee. Witnesses do not have to incriminate themselves. Above all, they want to ask Braun about his contacts with politics and the authorities. Who did you talk to about what? What support has Wirecard been assured of from politicians? Who could have guessed and foreseen the fraud? From the perspective of the opposition in particular, there are indications that the supervisory authorities may have touched Wirecard as a rising star in the stock market with boyish gloves.
The company, marketed as a German technological hope, was a service provider for cashless payments, eg at checkout, a very competitive market. Based on the current status of the investigation, Wirecard had losses for years. According to the Munich prosecutor’s office, fictitious profits have been reported since 2015. EY’s auditors evidently noticed nothing. According to the researchers, banks and investors lost more than three billion euros, not to mention the damage to shareholders after the rapid fall of the stock market. Police are still searching for former board member Jan Marsalek.
Braun says only one thing about all this on Thursday: the authorities, the supervisory bodies and the politicians have done nothing wrong, they have never behaved correctly, in breach of duty or unfairly. The same applies to the supervisory board and auditors, who were “apparently very misled”.
Then the manager organizes a consistent game of ping-pong, a game against the wall. Because Braun doesn’t say anything else. He refuses to answer any questions from the deputies. “I will not get involved anymore today.” “I will not deviate from my statement.” “I will stick to my statement.” Almost an hour before the deputies interrupt the interrogation. Then continue in the same style.
Braun blocks, Braun masons. And MEPs from all political groups ask more. Did Braun have a conversation with Secretary of State for Finance Jörg Kukies on his 50th birthday? Were there contacts with foreign intelligence services? Braun does not even answer simple questions like those of the left-wing MP Fabio De Masi (“Is it true that you have a daughter?”, “Do you think you have done something with your life?”). Not even that of the financial politician of the FDP, Florian Toncar, if he had spoken with Vice Chancellor Olaf Scholz before. At least he reveals his date of birth to green deputy Danyal Bayaz, which is not a secret either.
The questions about his family and the title of his doctoral thesis are obviously intended to show that Braun does not answer questions that could not bother him at all in the fraud process. From the point of view of the deputies, he has no right to do so. However, Braun maintains that all these details are “part of an overall mosaic-like picture.” But it could be that he complements his information after the testimony before the Public Ministry.
Long before the end of the survey, it was clear that the committee hit a wall. Toncar’s conclusion is: “Markus Braun has not changed. He cheats, he mercilessly pursues his own advantage. “AfD MP Kay Gottschalk admits that he is at the end of his life. MEPs will not get any new knowledge this afternoon. Braun misses any respect, criticizes the MP from the union Matthias Hauer. SPD deputy Cansel Kiziltepe asks the manager if he is aware that his silence “throws people into the abyss.” The deputies can already give their opinion in the answer at this time: “I will not deviate from my statement “.