Cum-ex scandal: Former Warburg banker makes confession

Status: 12.01.2022 3:44 p.m.

Surprising turnaround in the third Cum-Ex criminal case before the Bonn Regional Court: So far, the accused banker of the private bank MM Warburg has denied any guilt. Now he has confessed.

By Massimo Bognanni and Nils Wischmeyer, WDR

It is 9:35 a.m. on Wednesday morning when the accused former banker of the Hamburg private bank MM Warburg turns everything that has been seen in this process upside down. So far, the 63-year-old had always denied being involved in a multi-million dollar tax theft called “Cum-Ex”. Bankers, consultants and stock traders had a total of an estimated twelve billion euros in taxes that they never paid – a grip on the treasury that is said to have caused a loss of 109 million euros in the accused.

But this morning the ex-Warburg banker starts to make an explanation. The man with a fringe of hair and horn-rimmed glasses speaks uncertainly. According to the defendant, he repeatedly glossed over the events and events in order to justify his actions at the time. “That was wrong. However, I still find it difficult to find the right, open words.”

Bank owners reject allegations

The fact that the banker is even looking for open words on the 13th day of the negotiation amounts to a bang. The former managing director of a Warburg subsidiary in Luxembourg is the first player in the traditional Hamburg banking group to make a confession. All other accused or accused Warburg bankers had to date denied any guilt.

For example, the bank’s former general agent, who declared his innocence to the end in his trial last year before the Bonn Regional Court. The 72-year-old was sentenced to five years and six months in prison. The judgment is not yet final. The owners of the private bank, Christian Olearius and Max Warburg, against whom the Cologne public prosecutor is also investigating in the Cum-Ex case, deny to this day that they knew of the criminal background of the business.

“Don’t tell us anything”

For a long time it looked like the defendant would join this line of defense in the current cum-ex trial. On Monday he caused displeasure with the presiding judge Roland Zickler with his testimony. The ex-Warburg banker stated that he had run the cum-ex business, although he did not understand their background. Even when the legislature drew up new rules in 2009 to stop the deals at the expense of the state treasury, the managing director and former risk manager had nothing to do with it. For him, these were merely “guard rails” that the legislature wanted to set.

The day of the trial, which was supposed to bring clarity, ended with a scolding from the judge. “Don’t tell us anything,” grumbled Zickler. “Don’t tell us anything that’s wrong! Tell us how it was! What should we think? It’s not plausible.” The judge broke off the questioning. The message was clear: the judge did not believe the accused. Years of imprisonment could have resulted.

Fear for the career

The defendant apparently got the message. The inquiries of the court led to a reflection. On this Wednesday he now admitted that in 2009 he had suspected that the deals were precisely those that the legislature had classified as abusive. He also signed false confirmations, which were urgently needed for the tax refunds and thus contributed to the concealment of the acts. He went through all of this out of fear for his career. “Based on my experience with the management structure of the Warburg Group, I feared that my refusal would have ended my career.”

The defendant confessed that he closed his eyes and continued the project. It was through his work that he made the projects possible. “I deeply regret having created a tax prerequisite for the execution of the transactions discussed here and the immense tax damage caused by this.”

Obviously surprised by the confession, the board initially withdrew, only to adjourn the meeting shortly afterwards. Judge Zickler ended the day of the trial with words of praise this time: “You have done yourself one of the greatest favors a person can do himself.”

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