Despite a year-and-a-half of pugilistic pronouncements, threats and vows to defend himself, delivered primarily through his lawyers, accused hedge fund fraudster Helmut Kiener's first official statement was something of an anticlimax.
Kiener told a Würzburg, Germany, court today—again, through a statement read by his lawyer—that he did, in fact, run the €345 million Ponzi scheme prosecutors accuse him of. Kiener's lawyer, Achim Gröpper, called the defense plea "a confession, for the most part."
"I just didn't have the courage to liquidate the K1 funds when I saw they got into trouble," Kiener wrote and Gröpper read. "I trusted that I could make up losses by investing just more and more new money."
Blaming "enormous psychological pressure" to succeed, Kiener, a trained psychologist, said he "came up with the idea to use my computer to forge some of the account statements. After getting through with it one time, that nasty habit sort of slipped in."
Kiener faces up to 15 years in prison on the 121 counts of forgery, aggravated fraud and tax evasion. He is one of eight people arrested in the case; one of them, a managing director at K1's administrator, is on trial, another committed suicide as police pursued him.
Kiener did live up, at least in part, to one promise: an attempt to spread the blame to some of his victims, namely his banks, Barclays and BNP Paribas.
"As the banks approved all my investment suggestions, I felt on the safe side," Kiener said. "I thought my investment decisions would be equivalent to market practices."
But some matters Kiener acknowledged he had to take full responsibility for, such as using K1 funds for personal purposes, in contravention of his agreements with the banks.
"I know that this was a conflict of interest and that I violated investment rules I had with the banks, and I bitterly regret it," he said.
Gröpper read out only about 20% of Kiener's statement today, he said. The rest will come on May 4.