Evidence complete at Mannesmann trial

16th June 2004, Comments 0 comments

16 June 2004, DUSSELDORF - The taking of evidence at Germany's biggest-ever business trial was formally completed Wednesday, opening the way for counsel to begin closing arguments next week and for the court to hand down its verdict on the Mannesmann bonuses next month.

16 June 2004

DUSSELDORF - The taking of evidence at Germany's biggest-ever business trial was formally completed Wednesday, opening the way for counsel to begin closing arguments next week and for the court to hand down its verdict on the Mannesmann bonuses next month.

Presiding judge Brigitte Koppenhoefer and other judges said in March they saw no case to answer in the prosecution of Deutsche Bank chief executive Josef Ackermann and five other former Mannesmann figures for alleged breach of trust.

The six 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.

The judges said German stock law may have been breached, but that is not the subject of this trial.

Defence lawyers said Wednesday outside the court they were confident of an acquittal on the criminal charges.

Wednesday's hearing in the western city of Dusseldorf lasted only a few minutes, enough time for Koppenhoefer to formally declare the evidence complete and set dates for the lawyers to address the state superior court.

After the prosecution and defence have spoken two days apiece, the defendants will also be allowed to address the court.

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 bank, Germany's biggest, around the hearings.

A member of the former Mannesmann supervisory board, he has told the court he relied on company lawyers' advice that what he did was legal and promptly corrected legal errors when told about them.

Nearly EUR 60 million was spent on 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 provider business.

The prosecutors argue that Mannesmann as a legal entity was entitled to better stewardship of its funds.

Former chief executive Klaus Esser, who received by far the largest bonus, is among the defendants and is accused of assisting in a breach of trust.

DPA

Subject: German news

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