Football: Man stands trial for bomb attack on Dortmund team bus in bid to manipulate shares

Defendant Sergej W is escorted by judicial officers into the district court in Dortmund on Dec 21. He is accused of planting the explosive devices in attempt to trigger a fall in Dortmund shares on which he allegedly had betted before the attack. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

DORTMUND (Germany) (AFP) - A German-Russian man went on trial on 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 (S$79,750) 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 in profit if the plan came off, they believe. He, however, sold the options in the days after the attack, making just €5,900.

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 postponed for a day

W faces life in prison if found guilty, although in Germany parole is usually granted after 15 years.

Citing unnamed investigators, the 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 1kg 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 5m, 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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