Former senior managers at Sal Oppenheim wealth management firm are facing charges of embezzlement over fraudulent real estate deals. The trial aims to shed a light on management culture at Germany's oldest private bank.
In the dock at the Cologne Regional Court are Matthias Count of Krockow, Christopher Freiherr von Oppenheim, Friedrich Carl Janssen and Dieter Pfundt – who were all proprietors of Sal. Oppenheim – as well as Josef Esch, a prominent real estate dealer in the Cologne area.
The five men stood accused of misusing bank assets in connection with three real estate deals worth 134 million euros ($175 million), public prosecutors said at the beginning of the trial on Wednesday. The five have denied any wrongdoing.
The defendants purchased the properties in Cologne and Frankfurt at elevated prices "in the full knowledge of damaging the bank," the indictment said.
The court in Cologne would seek to establish to what extent the defendants benefited individually from the deals, the prosecutors said, adding that the accused faced severe embezzlement charges which could bring them up to ten years imprisonment.
Sal. Oppenheim is a private asset management firm that has been serving its mostly ultra-rich customers since 1789. In 2010, it was bought up by Germany's biggest private bank, Deutsch Bank, for an estimated 1 billion euros after a number of its investments had gone awry.
Evidence is to be heard during 78 days in court with a verdict not to be expected before December.
uhe/ipj (dpa, Reuters)