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Deutsche Bank co-CEO must face trial

Jürgen Fitschen, co-head of Germany's leading bank, is to appear in a Munich court on fraud charges. He is accused of conspiring with fellow defendants to minimize the amount of a settlement by lying under oath.

The Munich District Court has decided to try Deutsche Bank co-CEO Jürgen Fitschen on false testimony charges related to the bankruptcy of late media mogul Leo Kirch, court officials confirmed on Monday.

Fitschen and four former managers of Germany's leading commercial and investment bank have been charged with making false statements in the bankruptcy case, which dates back to the collapse of the Kirch group in 2002.

Kirch, who died in 2011, claimed that comments made by ex-Deutsche Bank head Rolf Breuer in a 2002 television appearance doubting his group's creditworthiness helped pave the way for the collapse of his business empire.

The civil case ended in early 2014 when Germany's biggest bank agreed to pay a settlement of 775 million euros ($1.06 billion) to the mogul's heirs. But the criminal case,

in which prosecutors say Fitschen and his co-defendants made false statements in court

to hinder the payment of compensation to Kirch's heirs, has now been given the green light by the Munich court.

According to prosecutors, Fitschen made contradictory statements when testifying in the civil case in 2011. Allegedly, the defendants, which also include Breuer, former board member Clemens Boersig, and former bank chief Josef Ackermann, conspired to minimize the amount paid to Kirch's heirs. These charges are partially based on files found in searches of Deutsche Bank offices.

A spokesman for Deutsche Bank said it was the company's policy not to comment on ongoing litigation, but that "the presumption of innocence applies to all former and current management board members."

The bank has previously said that it is "convinced that any suspicion against Juergen Fitschen will be shown to be unfounded." Fitschen, who shares the helm of Deutsche Bank with Anshu Jain, is free to continue managing the bank throughout the trial.

es/jil (dpa, Reuters)

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