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MUNICH (Reuters) - Deutsche Bank (DBKGn.DE) co-CEO Juergen Fitschen rejected prosecutors' accusations that he gave misleading evidence in connection with the 2002 collapse of the Kirch media empire.
Fitschen, 66, has vowed to fight the criminal allegations, which follow a civil suit brought by heirs of late media magnate Leo Kirch. The case is proving a distraction for the bank as it faces rising investor unrest after announcing a strategic overhaul.
"I have at no point lied or deceived in relation to the Kirch case," Fitschen told a Munich court on Monday, testifying for the first time after he went on trial in April.
Fitschen said he neither deliberately misled prosecutors, nor did he knowingly tolerate any alleged attempts by his colleagues to mislead investigators. "Both accusations are false," he said.
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. He faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison if convicted,
Ackermann said he had always testified to the best of his knowledge during the lengthy investigation. "The charge against me is unfounded," he said.
The prosecutor has said that Fitschen and his co-defendants had misled an appeals court in order to avoid paying damages sought by Kirch. All have denied the charges.
Leo Kirch, who died in 2011, blamed Breuer for triggering his group's downfall by questioning its creditworthiness in a 2002 television interview.
After 12 years of legal wrangling, Deutsche Bank settled the civil suit in February 2014 in a deal that cost the bank about 925 million euros.
Fitschen is not only co-CEO of Germany's flagship bank but is head of the banking lobby BdB, a high-profile position that puts him in close contact with regulators and policymakers.
Reporting by Joern Poltz, Writing by Thomas Atkins; Editing by Keith Weir