The Austrian Supreme Court (OGH) has confirmed the verdict of the Vienna Criminal Court on September 15, 2020, exonerating Cevdet Caner and five co-defendants, dismissing the appeals made by the Vienna State Prosecutor’s Office.
The Vienna Criminal Court had rejected all charges brought forward by the Vienna State Prosecutor’s Office, deeming them completely unfounded.
For the Vienna State Prosecutor’s Office and State Prosecutor Dr. Martina Semper, the OGH’s decision marks a clear defeat. In its reasoning, the OGH emphasized that the appeals lodged by the state prosecutor’s office lacked legal grounds and clarity, with some even raising improper criticism of the evidence presented. The OGH’s decision was so conclusive that no oral hearing was deemed necessary: “The appeals by the state prosecutor’s office were, therefore, promptly dismissed during non-public deliberations, largely in line with the General Prosecutor’s Office opinion,” the OGH summarized.
After more than 13 years of litigation, which had significant adverse effects on the personal and professional lives of the accused, Cevdet Caner and his five co-defendants have finally been completely exonerated by the OGH.
As the former CEO and owner of the Level One Group, Cevdet Caner had acquired a substantial portfolio of valuable properties, primarily in Germany, and lucratively leased them. However, during preparations for the company’s planned initial public offering in 2008, amid the global financial crisis, a consortium of banks and hedge funds seized the opportunity for a hostile takeover, deliberately leading the Level One Group into planned insolvency, to the detriment of numerous investors.
The Berlin State Prosecutor’s Office had already dismissed investigations against Cevdet Caner in 2008 and 2012, due to a lack of suspicion of any wrongdoing. The English State Prosecutor’s Office did not even initiate investigations, as there was no initial suspicion.
In contrast, the Vienna State Prosecutor’s Office conducted an 8-year investigation, culminating in charges filed against Cevdet Caner and five co-defendants in 2018. Curiously, during the entire investigative process, the prosecuting attorney, Dr. Martina Semper, had never personally questioned Cevdet Caner, the primary defendant. The Vienna Court of Appeals had repeatedly criticized the Vienna State Prosecutor’s Office for procedural errors during the investigation, overturning its decisions multiple times. Furthermore, the European Court of Human Rights issued a reprimand to the Republic of Austria on September 20, 2018, for the extended duration of the proceedings, ordering compensation for Cevdet Caner due to the personal burden caused.
The prolonged proceedings and the perpetuation of unfounded allegations served as the basis for false statements and defamation spread by notorious short-seller Fraser Perring in his Viceroy Research against Cevdet Caner and his family members. Subsequently, this triggered further investigations in Germany by public prosecutors.
In the nearly two-year fair and impartial trial, presided over by Judge Michael Tolstiuk, 55 court sessions and testimonies from 51 witnesses, along with extensive review of a voluminous case file, led to a clear outcome: the innocence of Cevdet Caner and the other defendants.
Despite the unequivocally favorable course of the trial, the Vienna State Prosecutor’s Office, represented by State Prosecutor Dr. Martina Semper, lodged an appeal against the verdict. However, the OGH, in substantial agreement with the General Prosecutor’s Office, dismissed the appeal, considering it utterly unfounded, rendering any further hearings unnecessary.
With the OGH’s final decision, Cevdet Caner, his five co-defendants, and the Republic of Austria can now bring an end to this long and costly legal battle, one that has affected all parties involved, including Austrian taxpayers. The verdict finally upholds justice.
Cevdet Caner: “I am relieved and happy that, after a thorough and unbiased judicial examination, all allegations have been predictably proven groundless, confirming both my innocence and that of my co-defendants. Now, I trust that the German State Prosecutor’s Office, upon meticulous and conscientious review of the recently raised allegations, will quickly terminate their investigations with my full cooperation.”