Berlin It is a quarter past eleven on Thursday evening, the committee of inquiry has been meeting for over 13 hours, when a surprise awaits the members of parliament in meeting room 2,600 of the Paul Löbe House of the German Bundestag.
Oliver Bellenhaus sits in front of the camera at the Stadelheim correctional facility. The key witness of the Munich public prosecutor’s office is connected via video conference. The former Dubai governor of the group, known for his weakness for fast cars and his apartment in the luxury skyscraper Burj Khalifa, seems touched.
As the only witness, he is not wearing a suit, but a black sweater. Bellenhaus – pale, thinning hair, significantly thinner than in previous photos – sits alone in the lemon-yellow painted dreariness of a small prison meeting room. At his side criminal defense lawyer Nicolas Frühsorger.
Bellenhaus begins with the usual self-introduction. Born on September 27, 1973 in the Franconian town of Hof an der Saale, “currently residing in the JVA Stadelheim in Munich,” he says. Meeting chairman Hans Michelbach (CSU) instructs him about the possibility of introductory words that Bellenhaus accepts.
“First of all, I would like to thank you for giving me the opportunity to make my introductory statement and would like to take the opportunity to apologize to you as representatives of the public as well as to the injured party. The matter to be clarified here today is a huge disaster that cannot be glossed over by anything, ”Bellenhaus said.
A faint murmur goes through the conference room. “I will face my individual responsibility,” continues Bellenhaus, “but ask for your understanding that I cannot answer all of your questions today and that I have to make use of my right to refuse to be a witness.” The entire process must first be fully dealt with by the judiciary before he would comment on it. Together with the public prosecutor’s office, he is working “at full speed to clear up the individual complexes”.
Confessed key witness
After Wirecard’s bankruptcy, Bellenhaus traveled from Dubai to Munich in early July and surrendered. In a comprehensive confession, he stated that he had falsified Wirecard’s balance sheets in collaboration with CEO Braun and the volatile Asia director Jan Marsalek. Braun firmly rejects this.
In the meeting room, parliamentarian Matthias Hauer (CDU) reacted with surprise to the public admission of guilt: “We have taken note of your statement and note that you have apologized to the injured party. That is more than we heard from elsewhere today. ”
Hauer warns that the responsibility that Bellenhaus wants to face also includes cooperation with the investigative committee. Due to the extent of the scandal, however, there is high time pressure here – a new hearing should therefore take place in January at the latest.
Bellenhaus asks for an interruption and advice with his lawyer. Shortly afterwards, he agreed that he would be available in January. The session is closed.
“Mr. Bellenhaus was apparently the only one who understood what the public expected of him,” commented Fabio De Masi (Die Linke) afterwards. That guarantees him a second chance and is in contrast to the behavior of Markus Braun. The ex-CEO left almost all of the MPs’ questions unanswered at his hearing that afternoon. “Of course, Bellenhaus’ apology in no way undoes what happened. We expect a comprehensive statement from him in January, ”continued De Masi.
Danyal Bayaz of the Greens describes the apology as a positive sign: “As a key witness, Bellenhaus has already contributed to gang fraud Wirecard talked to the prosecutor. Unlike Markus Braun, he and Stephan van Erffa have made a binding announcement that they will testify to the committee at the beginning of 2021. “Both are important witnesses in the political and official clarification of the scandal.
Van Erffa, formerly chief accountant at Wirecard, had refused to testify as a further suspect witness in front of Bellenhaus, but had also announced that he would work with the investigative committee in the near future. Braun should also be summoned again. The parliamentarians are likely to have further night sessions ahead of them.
More: Ex-Wirecard boss Braun is silent – so he threatens a second, tougher round