MUNICH, Germany, April 25 (UPI) -- Deutsche Bank Co-CEO Jürgen Fitschen was cleared Monday of allegations he gave false testimony in a legal dispute involving Kirch Media Group that lasted more than a decade.
Fitschen and other former bank executives were accused of giving false testimony in a civil suit in connection with the collapse of German media mogul Leo Kirch's company. The court also dismissed charges against Fitschen's predecessors, Rolf Breuer and Josef Ackermann, and two other former management board members, Clemens Boersig and Tessen von Heydebreck.
"The accusations weren't substantiated," said Peter Noll, the presiding judge. Prosecutors have one week to appeal the ruling.
The verdict is another setback for German prosecutors. Last month Porsche officers were cleared by a Stuttgart court of charges they manipulated Volkswagen AG shares during a failed 2008 takeover.
Deutsche Bank has been involved in numerous legal battles, including investigations of rate-fixing and currency manipulation. Fitschen, the only board member involved in the current Kirch case, leaves his post next month and Co-CEO John Cryan becomes Deutsche Bank's sole CEO.
In a 2002 television interview given by Deutsche Bank's then-CEO, Breuer said that the financial sector seemed unwilling to provide any further loans or equity to Kirch Group. The late Kirch, a Deutsche Bank client, sued the bank, accusing Breuer of violating his confidentiality rights under German banking laws. He also alleged that Breuer tried to damage his company to obtain a lucrative deal to split up the media empire.
Noll rejected theories that the interview was part of a plan to drive Kirch into bankruptcy and allow the bank to seek the company's restructuring work.
"You don't kick someone in the shins to make him do business with you," Noll said. "That's preposterous."
Deutsche Bank agreed to pay roughly $1.04 billion to Kirch's heirs, though without admitting to any wrongdoing and denying the allegations.
Fitschen said he was glad about the outcome of the trial.
"I only wish it hadn't lasted so long," he said.