Cum-ex-Strafprozess: Warburg-Banker Olearius vor Gericht

MThe Landgericht Bonn is now familiar with criminal proceedings related to Cum-ex transactions. In seven cases, criminal chambers have already heard and imposed long prison sentences against tax lawyer Hanno Berger and various bankers. However, the main trial against the defendant Christian Olearius, which will be opened by presiding judge Marion Slota-Haaf on Monday at 10 am, stands out significantly in its explosiveness.

Marcus Jung

Redakteur in der Wirtschaft.

One of the most influential German private bankers of the past decades, Mit Olearius, is currently facing charges of serious tax evasion. The Cum-ex transactions of the private bank M.M. Warburg are said to have caused a damage of 280 million euros to the tax authorities. As a former board member and spokesperson for the personally liable partners of Warburg Bank, Olearius is alleged to have been aware of these activities and to have promoted the stock transactions for years.

Slota-Haaf und die anderen Richter der 13. Großen Strafkammer müssen die individuelle Schuld des 81 Jahre alten Bankiers aufklären und strafrechtlich bewerten. Die politische Dimension der Warburg-Affäre müssen sie dabei ausblenden. Ein parlamentarischer Untersuchungsausschuss in Hamburg geht seit mehr als zwei Jahren der Frage nach, ob SPD-Politiker Einfluss auf die Finanzbehörden der Hansestadt genommen haben.

The tax authorities had waived a claim for 47 million euros from Warburg Bank. It is proven that Olearius had met with Olaf Scholz multiple times in 2016 and 2017, when Scholz was the First Mayor of Hamburg. Scholz denies any involvement, but may potentially have to answer to another committee in the future: The Union in Berlin is demanding the establishment of an investigative committee in the Bundestag.

„I cannot reword“

The name of the Federal Chancellor will be mentioned several times in the courtroom on Monday. According to „Der Spiegel“, his name appears 27 times in the 371-page indictment. Specifically, the prosecutors from Cologne accuse the defendant Olearius of 15 cases of serious tax evasion between 2006 and the end of 2019. In two cases, no refund was made, and they are being treated as attempted offenses. The Economic Criminal Chamber has allowed the indictment in 14 cases. In one accusation – specifically regarding the Cum-ex trading by M.M. Warburg during the 2010 dividend season – the court refrained from opening a case due to violation of the double jeopardy principle. If convicted, the 81-year-old Olearius could face up to ten years in prison.

According to the Bonn Regional Court in April 2023, the former CEO of Warburg Bank is said to have extensively studied their trading strategies and approved Cum-ex transactions initiated by him. „He is believed to have been involved in all planning, so that he was aware of all processes and made the significant decisions,“ said the criminal justice system. As a member of the management board, Olearius was specifically responsible for signing tax returns, which later served as the basis for the offset or refund of capital gains tax. According to the prosecutors, the banker was aware of the comprehensive agreements with lawyers, brokers, and short sellers necessary for the execution of stock circle transactions, and deliberately kept this information hidden.

The defendant denies the accusations. Olearius had previously made it clear that he had nothing to reproach himself for, said a spokesperson for the banker earlier this spring. „In particular, he never intended to intentionally violate laws.“ The trial marks the culmination of the criminal investigation into the Cum-ex transactions of Warburg Bank. Years ago, someone from within the Cum-ex industry alerted prosecutors: lawyer S., a long-time partner of Hanno Berger.

Weitere Prozesse

The lawyers had early on sought the proximity of the Warburg bankers, establishing connections with stock traders in London as well as wealthy investors, including clients from Berger’s former law firm. When he came under investigation, S. offered his cooperation to Cologne prosecutor Anne Brorhilker, providing names and locations of meetings with Olearius and other Warburg bankers – and he succeeded in getting more Cum-ex offenders to come forward.

The first to start were two British stock traders who once worked for Hypo-Vereinsbank in London. The first Cum-ex criminal trial in Bonn, in which M.M. Warburg and Warburg Invest were involved as confiscation participants, revealed numerous details of the stock circle transactions. For the defendants, the trial ended with suspended sentences, confirmed by the Federal Court of Justice in the summer of 2021. The bank itself was then obliged to repay over 176 million euros to the state treasury. A subsequent constitutional complaint by M.M. Warburg against the confiscation of the money failed in 2022.

Meanwhile, the criminal justice system moved closer to Olearius himself with further criminal proceedings. In Bonn, Christian S., formerly the general representative and as such the „right-hand man“ of Olearius, was initially sentenced to several years in prison for serious tax evasion. He was followed by Detlef M., who was once responsible for risk control at the investment company Warburg Invest. The verdicts are now legally binding.

Currently, two current bank employees in Bonn are still under investigation. The criminal proceedings before the 12th Grand Criminal Chamber are currently in the middle of the evidence collection. However, Olearius must prepare for a lengthy process, usually with two trial days per week. The presiding judge, Slota-Haaf, has already scheduled dates until March 2024 (Case No. 63 KLs 1/22).