Deutsche Bank co-CEO Fitschen goes on trial in Kirch case
By Thomas Atkins
MUNICH (Reuters) - Deutsche Bank (DBKGn.DE: Quote) co-CEO Juergen Fitschen went on trial on Tuesday accused of giving misleading evidence in connection with the 2002 collapse of the Kirch media empire, a case that could prove a distraction for the bank as it presses ahead with a strategic overhaul.
Fitschen, 66, has vowed to fight the criminal allegations, which follow a civil suit brought by heirs of late media magnate Leo Kirch. He faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.
The trial started a day after Fitschen and co-CEO Anshu Jain unveiled a long-awaited revamp that foresees a paring back of Deutsche's investment bank and the sale of its Postbank retail division via a stock market listing.
Fitschen and his co-defendants, including former Deutsche CEOs Josef Ackermann and Rolf Breuer, are obliged to attend weekly hearings that are due to run at least until September.
"It's very difficult and highly unfortunate timing for the bank," said Christopher Wheeler of Atlantic Equities.
At the start of the trial, in the same Munich court where Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone and a neo-Nazi murder cell were tried in recent years, prosecutor Christiane Serini said Fitschen and his co-defendants had misled an appeals court in order to avoid paying damages sought by Kirch.
All five have denied the charges.
"Fitschen offered vague and inconclusive evidence at his hearing," Serini told the court, packed with five judges, a phalanx of lawyers and dozens of reporters. Continued...