Wirecard Ex-CEO Faces Lawmaker Reprisal Over Testimony Snub
(Bloomberg) -- Wirecard AG’s former chief executive officer is set to be called back to testify to a parliamentary investigative committee and could face legal retribution over his refusal to answer lawmakers’ questions.
At a hearing in Berlin on Thursday, Markus Braun read out a brief statement and then stonewalled by claiming his right to silence. It was his first public appearance since his July detention in connection with the collapse of the electronic payments company.
“I guarantee one thing: we will invite him again as a testee to the committee,” Danyal Bayaz, Green party lawmaker and a member of the parliament group investigating the Wirecard scandal, said Friday in a Bloomberg TV interview. “This was not the last time we have seen Markus Braun in the German Bundestag.”
Lawmakers in the lower house of parliament will start formal proceedings against Braun by requiring him to substantiate his refusal to answer under oath. If the justification doesn’t hold up, fines and additional jail time could await, Florian Toncar, a Free Democratic lawmaker on the committee, told Bloomberg radio.
“Braun was not convincing,” Toncar said. “He seems to include himself to be a victim of fraud of any unnamed party. I don’t believe him. It’s a strategy, which is not very credible.”
Lawmakers were angry about Braun’s lack of cooperation as they try to piece together the political links that may have played into regulatory failures to uncover fraud at Wirecard. After years of media reports about financial irregularities, the company was forced to admit in June that more than $2 billion in cash on its books likely never existed.
“We need him as a testee in order to clarify the political networks and the political contacts between Wirecard and the German government,” Bayaz said. “He was sort of respectless toward the German Bundestag, but also toward the German public and many, many investors who have lost a lot of money.”
The Green party lawmaker said the one positive statement from Braun was his commitment to cooperate with the criminal investigation after months in detention. Prosecutors, meanwhile, are still waiting for his testimony, which he’s signaled he’s willing to give but hasn’t carried out.
Braun indeed “recently declared his willingness to provide testimony,” a spokeswoman for Munich prosecutors told the Bild newspaper. “Of course, we cannot foresee the scope of the information he intends to provide, nor can we foresee whether this will involve full cooperation.”
German prosecutors currently have more than 20 suspects, according to Spiegel magazine. The allegations range from fraud and market manipulation to money laundering and organized crime.
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