German officials: Borussia Dortmund bomb attack suspect acted out of greed

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ESPN FC’s Raf Honigstein says that Borussia Dortmund’s Champions League defeats were tainted by the attack on the team bus.

BERLIN — A 28-year-old German-Russian citizen was arrested on Friday in Germany on suspicion of bombing the bus carrying the Borussia Dortmund football team in an attack last week that officials alleged was motivated by financial greed.

Dortmund’s Marc Bartra and a policeman were injured in the triple blasts on April 11 as the bus was heading to the team’s stadium for a Champions League game. Investigators found notes at the scene claiming responsibility on behalf of Islamic extremists, but quickly doubted their authenticity.

German federal prosecutors said in a statement that the suspect, identified only as Sergej W. in keeping with German privacy law, was arrested by a police tactical response team early on Friday in the state of Baden-Wurttemberg, near the southwestern city of Tuebingen.

Prosecutors said they have found no evidence that others were involved in the plot and they believe the suspect acted alone.

He faces charges of attempted murder, causing an explosion and serious bodily harm.

Prosecutors said that the suspect had taken out a loan and bought a large number of so-called put options for shares of Borussia Dortmund, betting on a drop in the share price after the attack.

“We’d like to think that the suspect is responsible for the attack on the team bus,” Frauke Kohler, spokesperson for the federal prosecutor’s office in Germany, said in a brief statement to reporters. “We were put on to the suspect’s tracks by suspicious option deals. He in total bought three different derivatives and gambled on falling stock prices.

“He bought the majority of the derivatives on April 11, the day of the attacks. The suspect took out a loan over several €10,000. His profit would have increased all the lower the stocks would have dropped. We can’t say right now how high the profit could have been exactly.”

Ralf Jager, the North Rhine-Westphalia state’s minister of the interior, said the suspect had hoped to earn millions.

“The man appears to have wanted to commit murder out of greed,” Jager said.

Prosecutors added that the suspect had booked a room in Dortmund’s team luxury hotel from April 9-13 and then April 16-20, the time-frame during which a second leg would have been played at Dortmund had their Champions League quarterfinal draw necessitated it. They said W. placed three explosives, packed with shrapnel, along the route the bus would take to reach the stadium for their first-leg match April 11 against Monaco.

“A significant share price drop could have been expected if a player had been seriously injured or even killed as a result of the attack,” prosecutors said in their statement.

Prosecutors said that the three blasts had detonated at the time the bomber had intended, but that the second blast occurred around one metre above the ground, limiting the damage.

The bombs were filled with metal pins around 70 millimetres long, with one pin found 250 metres away from the blast.

“We can’t conclusively say which kind of explosives he used,” Kohler said. “The investigations are still ongoing. They are complex since all of the explosives were used up in the explosion. Knowledge about it can only be gained by indirection like soil samples.

“At this stage, there are no leads to possible abetters or accomplices. But we will keep an eye on it.”

Borussia Dortmund’s bus was stopped after a series of explosions that shattered windows last week.

Investigators from the Federal Prosecutor’s office in Germany, the Federal Criminal Police and North-Rhine Westphalian state police had been following the lead after receiving information from the finance sector as well as from a bank suspecting money laundering, according to Spiegel, which broke the story early on Friday.

The day after the attack, German public TV station ARD reported that there had been an abnormality on the stock market just prior to the explosions with somebody buying options at the Frankfurt stock exchange.

ARD said that the buyers must “either have been extremely inexperienced or expecting a sharp fall in prices.”

The three explosions near the Dortmund team bus injured two people, including Bartra, and investigators later said that the attack could have caused major harm.

It was confirmed on Friday that one metal pin was found in the headrest of one of the seats in the last row in Dortmund’s team bus. According to earlier reports, Bartra sat in the last row along with goalkeeper Roman Burki.

“We in particular owe it to the Borussia Dortmund team to comprehensively solve the deed and its backgrounds,” Heiko Maas, the German Minister of Justice, said. “Every motive for this deed is vile. Should the suspect have tried to kill several people out of pure greed for money this would just be atrocious.”

Following the attack, three identical letters were found near the scene of the attack and suggested a possible Islamist extremist motive, but investigators had doubts about their veracity. 

Prosecutors added that another letter claiming the attack for a far-right background received by Berlin-based daily Tagesspiegel on April 13 also raised doubts, and could not be linked to the person behind the attack.

Dortmund CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke and club president Reinhard Rauball both expressed their gratitude to investigators.

“We hope that by arresting the suspect, the person responsible for the villainous attack on our players and staff members has been caught,” the pair said in a joint statement on the club’s official website.

Club captain Marcel Schmelzer added that the team hoped “to learn about the actual reasons behind the attack,” adding: “For everyone on the bus this information would facilitate the process of coping with it.”

Speaking on the club’s in-house TV channel, sporting director Michael Zorc said: “My first thought is relief. I hope it helps processing the events.”

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

Stephan Uersfeld is the Germany correspondent for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @uersfeld.

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