A German court has given the go-ahead for Markus Braun, the former chief executive of Wirecard, to stand trial later this year over one of Europe’s biggest postwar accounting scandals.
The Munich district court on Wednesday accepted the prosecutor’s case against Braun over alleged fraud, breach of trust and accounting manipulation.
The 53-year-old has been in police custody for more than two years since the once highflying German payments group disclosed a €1.9bn hole in its balance sheet two years ago and collapsed in insolvency.
Braun has previously denied any wrongdoing and argues that he is one of the fraud’s many victims, blaming Wirecard’s former second-in-command Jan Marsalek and others of siphoning off the money without his knowledge.
Marsalek has been on the run for two years, and German law enforcement authorities believe he is hiding in Russia.
The Munich district court on Wednesday issued a brief statement saying it accepted the charges against Braun, adding that a date for the trial will be set in due course.
The trial is expected to start this year, according to people familiar with the matter. The German constitutional court demands that suspects who are in police custody should face trial within three months after the court accepted the prosecution’s case.
A lawyer for Braun did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
If found guilty, Braun could face up to 15 years in jail.
The court also accepted charges against former deputy finance director and head of accounting Stephan von Erffa, who has denied wrongdoing, as well as the former head of a Dubai-based unit at the core of the fraud who has admitted wrongdoing and has turned chief witness for the prosecution.
Prosecutors claim that Braun and von Erffa used the forged accounts to raise more than €3bn in debt in order to cover up that the firm was heavily lossmaking.
The prosecutors assert that the annual results for 2015 to 2018 were “deceitful” and “incorrectly reflected the group’s circumstances” because they reported revenue from outsourced operations in Asia and cash purportedly held on escrow accounts that did not exist.
According to the charges, Braun knew that the reported cash and revenue were false. He is also accused of 25 cases of organised professional market manipulation.