Start of the process: Ruzicka in court
The worst possible accident in the advertising and media industry is now a reality. Aleksander Ruzicka is sitting in the dock of the Wiesbaden district court. Through him, with him and from him, many have earned well for more than 20 years: publishers, television stations, advertisers, agencies.
For marketing from Wiesbaden: Michael Ziesmann
Now the main proceedings for breach of trust are being opened against the former CEO of Europe’s largest media agency, Aegis Media. After 2 ½ years of investigative work, 15 months in custody and months of speculation, one of the most prominent representatives of the European advertising industry has to answer before a criminal court for the first time.
An entire industry is trembling for its existence. Because Ruzicka has had a decisive influence on this since 1984 and knows a lot. Too much of. In Central Europe, the Baltic States and South Africa, he was responsible for 10 billion euros in advertising money from extremely well-known customers. The fact that deep insights into the practices of the advertising and media industry must be given for the first time is all the more explosive. On the one hand to prove guilt, on the other hand to prove innocence. These public insights into confidential business relationships could bring them down.
The tension in the immediate run-up to the start of the trial this afternoon in Wiesbaden was correspondingly high. For the first time, all participants met in public. Aleksander Ruzicka was brought to Wiesbaden from the Weiterstadt prison. For his first public appearance in 1 ½ years. Despite being in custody, he is in the best suit and obviously in good shape. The result was enormous media hype. Dozens of journalists, photographers and camera teams were accredited at the start of the process.
Prosecutors had to significantly rewrite the charges after the court partially rejected them. 167 pages have become 60 pages, as Hartmut Heel, press spokesman for the Wiesbaden public prosecutor’s office, admitted when asked by absatzwirtschaft. However, the damage sum of 51.2 million euros is unchanged. At the last detention date, however, the public prosecutor’s office could not say where this damage had occurred. But one is sure that there is one and that it must have been created by Aegis Media.
The defense also worked until shortly before the trial began. Ruzicka’s defense attorney, Marcus Traut, will submit procedural motions before the indictment is read out. For example, to discontinue the proceedings. If the defense can prove that no damage has been caused, the interest in criminal prosecution could be limited. The presiding judge Jürgen Bonk must decide these applications either immediately or in the coming days. It was also Bonk who dismissed the charges against Heinrich Kernebeck (former MD Carat Wiesbaden) despite sharp protests from the public prosecutor’s office.
Both parties are taking full risk: there were no prior agreements between the judge, public prosecutor and defense attorney about the outcome of the proceedings or a sentence. The public prosecutor’s office must also achieve a prison sentence of at least 3 years in order to justify the unusually long period in which Aleksander Ruzicka has been held on remand. He would have already completed the part of it that he absolutely had to serve and could still leave the court as a free man.
Central question: who is still interested in dealing with the cause under criminal law? It is now clear that internal intrigues were being made against Ruzicka and that he was being systematically spied on privately. The only beneficiaries of this move are Ruzicka’s successors and predecessors in the position of CEO at Aegis Media. The public prosecutor’s office and Aegis Media stood by and watched as Ruzicka allegedly committed further criminal offenses at least between the time when the underlying criminal complaint was filed on July 5, 2005, and the first house searches on September 12, 2006. According to the indictment, around 30 million euros in damage allegedly occurred during this period alone.
Nobody wants to make the practices of the advertising and media industry public and have to give insight into working methods, conditions and contracts. The Wiesbaden district court will decide whether this will nevertheless determine the subject in the coming months.