Defence seeks acquittal inMannesmann bonus pay trial

8th July 2004, Comments 0 comments

8 July 2004 , DUSSELDORF - Defence attorneys for six persons accused of breach of trust in the Vodafone takeover of Mannesmann began their closing arguments Thursday to demand an acquittal, dismissing the prosecution of presenting "speculation" in the case. A total of 12 lawyers for the six defendants were scheduled to make closing arguments over two days through Friday, with the lawyers for the most prominent of the accused, Deutsche Bank chairman Josef Ackermann, on Thursday the first to demand acquittal

8 July 2004

DUSSELDORF - Defence attorneys for six persons accused of breach of trust in the Vodafone takeover of Mannesmann began their closing arguments Thursday to demand an acquittal, dismissing the prosecution of presenting "speculation" in the case.

A total of 12 lawyers for the six defendants were scheduled to make closing arguments over two days through Friday, with the lawyers for the most prominent of the accused, Deutsche Bank chairman Josef Ackermann, on Thursday the first to demand acquittal.

Besides Ackermann, other chief defendants are former Mannesmann head Klaus Esser and former supervisory board members Joachim Funk and Klaus Zwickel, all facing various charges of breach of trust or abetting breach in the huge bonus payments made after the takeover.

The defendants are accused of harming Mannesmann by rewarding top executives with huge bonuses just after they agreed to the company being taken over by British-based phone group Vodafone in 2000.

Nearly EUR 60 million were paid in bonuses and topping up pensions of a few executives who lost their jobs when Mannesmann submitted to takeover. The engineering group was broken up, as Vodafone only wanted its profitable mobile-phone business.

The prosecutors argued that Mannesmann as a legal entity was entitled to better stewardship of its funds. Last week the prosecution sought prison terms ranging from one to three years for the accused.

But on Thursday, Ackermann lawyers Eberhard Kempf and Klaus Volk demanded acquittal for their client.

They said the Deutsche Bank CEO had been guilty of neither civil nor criminal wrongdoing in his role in helping to approve the bonuses.

"The simple claims by the prosecution have nothing to do with a submission of proof and are pure speculation," Kempf said. The bonuses and pension payments were legal both in form and content.

The lawyer also said there was "not the remotest indication" that Ackermann had intentionally accepted possible damage to Mannesmann, as in fact no damage had been done.

The exceptional rise in the value of the company permitted exceptional special rewards," Kempf said, referring to the huge gains in the price of Mannesmann shares when the company was fighting to ward off the takeover by Vodafone.

He did acknowledge that only one decision in the bonus payments had been wrong on procedural grounds, when Funk, as chairman of the supervisory board, had voted at the session on a bonus which he himself was to receive. But this was nullified and corrected by the company, Kempf said.

The trial has been under way for five months, taking up 32 hearing days. Most of the defendants are retired, but Ackermann has had to structure a busy work week at the Frankfurt-based Deutsche Bank, Germany's biggest, around the hearings.

DPA

Subject: German news

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