A trial that is expected to last into 2024 has started in Germany, where every email and document that is potentially relevant to the proceedings will need to be introduced into the hearing.
The trial centres around the collapse in June 2020 of Wirecard, once hailed as one of Europe’s most successful tech start-ups.
Three former senior managers, including the Chief Executive, Markus Braun, face charges of fraud and embezzlement in what has become Germany’s biggest-ever accounting scandal.
Markus Braun is accused of “commercial gang fraud” and market manipulation for his role in Wirecard’s collapse. At the same time, two other managers, accounting boss Stephan von Erffa and Oliver Bellenhaus, the former head of Wirecard’s Dubai subsidiary, have been charged with fraud.
According to the prosecution, all three had worked “in an industrial fashion” to commit these offences.
On day one of the trial, it took prosecutors around five hours to read out 89 pages of charges, claiming that the fraud included deceiving auditors with fake documents, using doctored accounts to convince banks and bondholders to provide more than €3 billion in debt and siphoning off at least €255 million in corporate cash.
The trial, which will introduce witnesses from January, is expected to take a considerable amount of time because Germany’s criminal code stipulates that all evidence needs to be directly evaluated in the courtroom.
This will be enormously time-consuming in such a complex case and will involve multiple terabytes of electronic data, thousands of financial records and hundreds of witness statements.
Roger Isaacs, Forensic Partner at Milsted Langdon, said: “The world of Big Data in which we all now live means that the volume of documentation disclosed in litigation has increased exponentially. The only way in which many gigabytes or terabytes of data can be managed effectively is to adopt an appropriate electronic disclosure platform.
“This type of software can be hugely useful both for litigators and expert witnesses, who can use it to search using keyword terms.
“Forensic accountants and others providing litigation support services are also increasingly using artificial intelligence solutions to interrogate data so as to be able to find documents or other evidence that would take many hundreds of hours to find using traditional search techniques.”