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The defence team for ex-Wirecard CEO Markus Braun went on the attack Monday, calling the fraud case against their client prejudiced and urging the court in Munich to suspend proceedings.

Braun, 53, faces charges including commercial gang fraud and market manipulation over his alleged involvement in the massive accounting scandal that brought down payments company Wirecard.

The once-celebrated company collapsed dramatically in June 2020 after it was forced to admit that 1.9 billion euros ($2.0 billion) in cash, meant to be sitting in trustee accounts in Asia, didn’t actually exist.

Braun is in the dock alongside Wirecard’s ex-accounting boss Stephan von Erffa and Oliver Bellenhaus, the former head of Wirecard’s Dubai subsidiary.

Their high-profile trial opened last week, with prosecutors accusing the trio of inventing revenue streams with third-partner companies to inflate Wirecard’s accounts and make the loss-making company appear profitable.

Austrian-born Braun denies the allegations and claims to be a victim of the fraud, which his defence team says was masterminded by fugitive COO Jan Marsalek.

Braun’s lawyer, Alfred Dierlamm, told judges that the case against his client was “unprecedented” in its prejudice, with the media already painting Braun as guilty.

Dierlamm also accused prosecutors of not properly investigating Wirecard’s money flows.

The partner businesses were real, Dierlamm insisted, but the funds were re-directed to secret accounts without Braun’s knowledge.

“The entire basic hypothesis, that the third-partner business was non-existent” is “wrong”, Dierlamm told the court.

Dierlamm also lashed out at the prosecution for relying heavily on evidence supplied by co-defendant Bellenhaus, who has admitted wrongdoing and turned chief witness for the prosecution.

Bellenhaus was not a witness but “a main perpetrator in a gang whose sole aim was to embezzle large sums of money”, Braun’s defence lawyer argued.

Dierlamm asked the court to suspend the trial to allow more time for a thorough investigation and for the defence to properly review the mountain of documents in evidence, some of which he said the defence had only received days ahead of the trial.

The court is expected to take several days to respond to the motion to stay the proceedings.

Braun himself is not expected to address the court.

Bellenhaus’s lawyer, Florian Eder, rejected the attempts to discredit his client, saying Bellenhaus had cooperated fully with authorities.

Von Erffa’s lawyer also attacked Bellenhaus’s credibility, calling him “a dubious chief witness” who had deleted correspondence and had shared documents selectively.

Agence France-Presse

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