If there is any indication of how the witness feels at the moment of his testimony, it is the position of his arms. He holds the left one in front of his stomach, a little cramped, and with the flat of his right hand he leans heavily on the table top, as if looking for support. He puts two pieces of paper in front of him that look wrinkled. That doesn’t really go with his hyper-correct look, the dark turtleneck and suit that fits perfectly. Perhaps it is because the man had to travel there by prisoner transport.
At the beginning he wants to be binding. He asks politely: “Do you all hear me well?” Then he says: “My name is Markus Braun, 51 years old. I am currently living in the Augsburg JVA and am a business IT specialist.”
Rarely does it happen that a prisoner in the Germans Bundestag comes. One accused of gang fraud. Half a dozen police officers accompany him in bulletproof vests. But the authorities are nervous about the ex-boss of the Wirecard group. The Austrian is not only one of the main characters in the greatest financial scandal of the post-war period. 1.9 billion euros have disappeared, as has his fellow board member who fled Jan Marsalek.
The stock market value of 24 billion euros has been pulverized by the bankruptcy, thousands of investors have been cheated out of a lot of money. But the Wirecard insolvency is even more: It is about involvement in the secret service, about a mercenary army in Libya, Gambling and pornography. But it is also about the fact that the company, based in Aschheim near Munich, has long been considered a national champion, for which even the Chancellor has advertised to the Chinese government.
After the bankruptcy in June of this year and Braun’s arrest, one of the actors in this financial thriller appears publicly for the first time. But he doesn’t want to present more than the brief statement on his wrinkled piece of paper.
In his outfit, Braun looks a bit like a member of Kraftwerk’s techno pioneers, known for the slogan: “We are the robots”. The former Wirecard boss also works almost like a speaking machine, as he blocks the questions of the committee members one time by referring to his brief explanation.
At least Braun reveals his date of birth
Braun repeats the phrase “I refer to my statement” half a dozen times in a row. In the course of the survey, he varies his punching slightly, dryly indicates when a question has already been asked, and at least lets out a few banalities – such as his date of birth. But that was it. Braun could almost have kept his protective mask on – he is so impenetrable.
The MPs try again and again: Why did Braun ask to meet with Angela Merkel? Did he know that his partner Jan Marsalek was investing in cement factories in Libya? What did he discuss on his 50th birthday at a meeting with Finance State Secretary Jörg Kukies? Did he let hackers and detectives on critical journalists of the “Financial TimesDoes he at least want to say something to cheated investors or disappointed employees?
Some committee members try to grab Braun’s honor. “Do not notice that your public image will continue to deteriorate,” says the CSU man Hans Michelbach opposite. His SPD colleague Cansel Kiziltepe appeals to Braun’s conscience: “Are you aware that your silence is dragging people with you into the abyss?”
Left chairman Fabio De Masi approaches Braun most personally: First of all, he asked him whether it was true that he had a daughter. When Braun does not want to answer this question either, De Masi continues: Was it ever an issue that his company should also have processed digital payments for child pornography. Braun pauses for a moment. Then he says: “I don’t want to comment on that.” When De Masi brings up the subject again later, Braun asks “to leave my family out of here”.
The questioning is also a show of power. One day after corona deniers reached the Bundestag with the support of the AfD and oppressed members of parliament there, the parliamentarians are now demonstrating their sovereignty again. Also one Braun complains to the Federal Court of Justice couldn’t stop them from summoning the CEO.
After two unsuccessful rounds of questions, representatives of all parties, from Left De Masi to committee chairman Kay Gottschalk from the AfD, said they were disappointed by the witness who showed a lack of respect for the Bundestag. It is also of little use to Braun that he stated in his opening statement that, as far as he knew, neither authorities nor politicians were guilty of anything in the Wirecard case. It is noticeable that Braun “exonerates everyone who could say something against him,” said FDP politician Florian Toncar. In the end he will probably portray his fugitive partner Marsalek as a lone perpetrator.
The theory of the mosaic
The members of the committee of inquiry had prepared for the strange questioning with the same answer from witnesses over and over again. After all, Braun’s lawyer Alfred Dierlamm had outlined his client’s legal strategy in advance. In his opening statement, Braun argues with a “mosaic-like structure”, to which his statements are put together, which is why every detail could lead to a burden on himself. Braun lures the parliamentarians by pointing out that he could perhaps say more to the committee at a later date: “I do not rule out that I will add to the statements after a testimony to the public prosecutor.”
But the MPs have also come up with a strategy beforehand: They just keep asking their questions. Because they plan to bring Braun to some information with the help of the Federal Court of Justice. Again and again the politicians ask about things that obviously have no relevance to the criminal investigation. Braun is supposed to explain Wirecard’s business model or his ideas of what corporate governance is.
Later, the MPs before the court want to force Braun and his lawyers into a so-called credibility, why answers to these questions have criminal relevance. The court, so their goal, could force Braun to answer. If he refuses, he could be arrested. For Braun, who is already in custody, this would be an additional punishment: “Prison detention will not be deducted from the later punishment,” says FDP chairman Toncar. Markus Braun’s appearance should therefore have consequences – and will be extended in the coming months.