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article imageMan on trial for bomb attack on Dortmund team bus

By Carsten HAUPTMEIER (AFP)     Dec 21, 2017 in Crime

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.

Defence lawyers insisted that Sergei W., 28, didn't want to hurt anyone and argued he would not get a fair trial in the football-mad city of Dortmund where loyalties to the local team run high.

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

W. 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 that 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.

"The accused aimed to enrich himself," chief prosecutor Carsten Dombert said of the defendant who sat, handcuffed and wearing a blue shirt, in court, without speaking himself.

- 'Money-making scheme' -

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.

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.

For his money-making scheme, W. had apparently taken out about 50,000 euros ($60,000) in loans 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 up to 500,000 euros in 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".

Instead, W. allegedly sold the options 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."

- 'Scared to death' -

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 daily, 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 lawyer Carl Heydenreich 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 Heydenreich.

The lawyer had earlier played down the seriousness of the attack, comparing it in a media interview 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?"

Dombert called the comments "unspeakable and cynical" while lawyer Ulf Haumann, representing the players, labelled them "tasteless", stressing that "those aboard the bus were scared to death".

A day after the attack, Dortmund played their postponed game against Monaco and lost, 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.

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

The trial continues on January 8.

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