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Ex-Deutsche Bank CEO Breuer Rejected Deal in Criminal Fraud Case

Former Deutsche Bank AG (DBK) CEO Rolf Breuer
Former Deutsche Bank AG (DBK) Chief Executive Officer Rolf Breuer. Photographer: Guido Krzikowski/Bloomberg

Former Deutsche Bank AG Chief Executive Officer Rolf Breuer, charged with attempted fraud over his testimony in a lawsuit filed by Leo Kirch, rejected a settlement with prosecutors that would have included a fine and a suspended prison sentence.

Breuer declined to accept a so called penal order that would have included a suspended one-year prison term, his lawyer Sven Thomas said in an interview today. The deal would have also included a fine, two people familiar with the issue said. They declined to be identified because the negotiations weren’t public.

“There were talks but we rejected the proposal because we have a clear acquittal strategy,” said Thomas. “We may have settled had the prosecution agreed to drop charges for a very small amount.”

The case is part of a nine-year-old fight over Breuer’s comments about the creditworthiness of Kirch’s media group. Kirch claimed the comments precipitated the group’s bankruptcy and filed suits for a total of at least 3.3 billion euros ($4.6 billion), which are pending. The banks and Breuer rejected a 775 million-euro settlement over the civil litigation proposed by a judge in March.

Thomas said he “doesn’t remember” what amount the prosecution offered as part of the deal since the terms were unacceptable from the start.

The talks were held in the period before a Munich court allowed the charges to proceed to trial in March. A suspended sentence means that while the prison term is imposed by the court, the defendant won’t spend any time in jail unless they commit another violation.

Barbara Stockinger, spokeswoman for Munich prosecutors, declined to comment.

Television Interview

Prosecutors charged Breuer in 2009, claiming he lied to judges in one of the civil suits Kirch filed over a 2002 Bloomberg Television interview.

In the TV interview, given in February 2002, Breuer said “everything that you can read and hear” is that “the financial sector isn’t prepared to provide further” loans or equity to Kirch. Within months, Kirch’s group filed the country’s biggest bankruptcy since World War II.

At an appeals court hearing in Munich in November 2003, Breuer told the judges that his comments were based on what was publicly known at the time about the media group and not on internal bank information. Breuer said that he “had never seen the Kirch credit file” at Deutsche Bank and didn’t see correspondence with Germany’s financial regulator, according to the indictment.

Prosecutors say Breuer’s initials are on a copy of a September 2001 letter the regulator sent Deutsche Bank to inquire about its risks in light of Kirch’s financial trouble, indicating he saw the document.

A trial date hasn’t been set yet.

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