Sunday, October 17, 2021

Man on trial for bomb attack on Dortmund team bus

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(Back Row L-R) Borussia Dortmund’s Turkish defender Omer Toprak, Borussia Dortmund’s Ukrainian striker Andriy Yarmolenko, Borussia Dortmund’s Greek defender Sokratis, Borussia Dortmund’s Polish defender Lukasz Piszczek and Borussia Dortmund’s Gabonese striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, (Front Row L-R) Borussia Dortmund’s Turkish midfielder Nuri Sahin, Borussia Dortmund’s German defender Jeremy Toljan, Borussia Dortmund’s US midfielder Christian Pulisic, Borussia Dortmund’s German midfielder Mahmoud Dahoud, Borussia Dortmund’s Japanese midfielder Shinji Kagawa and Borussia Dortmund’s Swiss goalkeeper Roman Buerki pose for a group photograph ahead of the UEFA Champions League Group H football match between Tottenham Hotspur and Borussia Dortmund at Wembley Stadium in London, on September 13, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / IKIMAGES / Ian KINGTON

A German-Russian man went on trial Thursday accused of carrying out a bomb attack on the Borussia Dortmund football team’s bus in an elaborate bid to make a fortune on the stock market.

The blasts eight months ago shattered the bus windows, leaving Spanish international Marc Bartra, 26, with a broken wrist. A police officer also suffered inner ear damage in the April 11 assault.

The suspect — named only as Sergei W., 28 — was arrested 10 days after he allegedly remotely set off the three explosive devices hidden in a hedge as the bus was leaving the team hotel for a Champions League match.

His alleged motive was greed. Prosecutors charge he had sought to profit from an anticipated plunge in the club’s stock market value after the attack, by cashing in on so-called put options.

Investigators had first feared a jihadist link after letters suggesting an Islamist motive were found at the scene. But questions quickly arose over their authenticity and an Iraqi man taken into custody was soon cleared of involvement.

Days later, police swooped on the suspect, an electrical technician, and charged him with 28 counts of attempted murder, triggering explosions and causing serious bodily harm.

He was staying in the same Dortmund hotel as the players, had a view of where the fragmentation bombs went off and had bought the put options on the team’s shares on the day of the attack, prosecutors said.

Dortmund, also known as BVB, is the only football club in Germany that is listed on the stock exchange.

‘Stock market manipulation’
For his money-making scheme, W. had apparently taken out around 50,000 euros ($59,000) of credit to finance the purchase of options.

They could have been sold at a pre-determined price by June 17, more than two months after the attack, when a sharp fall in the share price would have promised a high profit.

Prosecutors said “a significant drop in the price could have been expected if, as a result of the attack, players had been seriously injured or even killed”.

The suspect could have pocketed up to 500,000 euros in profit if the plan came off, they believe. He however sold the options in the days after the attack, making just 5,900 euros.

The head of Germany’s federal criminal police, Holger Muench, said: “We have never experienced such an attack that turned out in the end to be such a perfidious form of stock market manipulation.”

Game only a day later
W. faces life in prison if found guilty, although in Germany parole is usually granted after 15 years.

Citing unnamed investigators, Bild newspaper said police believed the suspect was capable of building a remotely-triggered bomb, having won an educational award in electronics and engineering in 2005.

Prosecutors say the bombs each contained up to a kilogramme of a hydrogen peroxide fuel mixture and around 65 metal bolts.

W. drew attention at the hotel, reported Bild, first by insisting on a window room facing the front and then, in the pandemonium after the blasts, by calmly walking into its restaurant to order a steak.

Defence lawyers in their opening statement charged that media leaks of investigation details had prejudiced the case against their client.

This was especially serious “because there is no other big German city where the population identifies as closely with football as Dortmund,” said defence lawyer Carl Heydenreich.

Earlier, in an interview with Bild, Heydenreich had played down the seriousness of the attack, comparing it to a half-hearted attempt to score a goal.

“Only a single metal bolt ended up inside the bus… If a player misses the goal from a distance of five metres, you have to ask yourself: couldn’t he do it or didn’t he want to do it?”

A day after the attack, Dortmund lost their postponed game against Monaco, prompting then coach Thomas Tuchel to rail against UEFA for not giving the players time to come to terms with their fear before returning to the pitch.

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