Heidelberg is a city in the state of Baden-Württemberg in the Federal Republic of Germany.
It is no secret that Heidelberg is a jewel among German travel destinations. Heidelberg is located in the Neckar river valley right where the legend-rich Odenwald (Forest of Odes or Odin) opens up towards the plains of the Rhine Valley. Heidelberg is home to the oldest university in Germany (est. 1386). With 28,000 students, the Ruprecht-Karls-Universität (or Ruperto Carola, the Latin equivalent of its name) is one of Germany’s larger academic institutions and boasts the full spectrum of an ancient academy, from Egyptian Studies to Computer Linguistics. The faculties for Medicine, Law and Natural Sciences are considered to be among the best in Germany. The university fostered the establishment of several other world class research institutions such as the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ), the European Molecular Biological Laboratory (EMBL), Center for Molecular Biology (ZMBH), Max Planck Institutes for Medicine, Astronomy, Nuclear Physics, among others. Generally speaking, Heidelberg is an academic city with a long and rich history and is similar in many ways to cities such as Cambridge or Oxford (Heidelberg and Cambridge, England are twinned).
During WWII, the city was almost completely spared allied bombings which destroyed many of Germany’s larger inner cities. As a result, Heidelberg has retained its baroque charm of narrow streets, picturesque houses and of course the world-famous Schloss (castle ruins). After World War II, the US Army built large barracks at the southern end of the city. Heidelberg’s 149,600 inhabitants at one point included not only 28,000 students at the university but also nearly 20,000 US citizens, almost all of them soldiers and their families. However, in 2015, the US Army presence relocated to a different city in Germany.
With hundreds of thousands of tourists flocking to the city annually, Heidelberg is truly a culturally diverse and international destination, despite its small size. Over the years, Heidelberg has attracted numerous artists, intellectuals and academics from all over Europe and has sometimes been referred to as Germany’s unofficial intellectual capital. People who have lived and worked in the city include the poets Joseph von Eichendorff, Jean Paul and Goethe, scientists such as Bunsen and Kirchhoff, philosophers such as the founder of the “Illuminati” order von-Knigge, atheist Ludwig Feuerbach, existentialist Karl Jaspers, political theorist Hannah Arendt, architect Albert Speer, and many more. Mark Twain wrote in A Tramp Abroad:
- Frankfurt Airport – The nearest intercontinental airport.
- Stuttgart – for European ‘EU-domestic’ flights.
ICE Train from Frankfurt or Stuttgart Airport to Heidelberg
You can travel to Heidelberg via ICE (InterCity Express), Germany’s fastest train, running at up to 300 km/h (180 mph) on German rails. For more info and booking see German Railways (Deutsche Bahn, DB) website.
Reservations are not necessary; just buy your ticket at the counter or machine after you land. Credit cards are accepted; most staff speak English. It might be necessary to change trains (only once) at Mannheim, Stuttgart, or Frankfurt Central Station, but it is still likely to be faster than the bus. One way prices: Frankfurt €26.00 (ICE), Stuttgart €29 (IC) €41 (ICE).
Lufthansa Shuttle Bus
Lufthansa provides a shuttle bus from Frankfurt to Heidelberg for €25 one way (taking one hour) and €46 round trip. If you have a Lufthansa Ticket, you get €2 discount.
- Frankfurt-Hahn – An airport in the middle of the beautiful green mountains of Hunsrück is a major hub for Ryanair. There are frequent bus connections from Heidelberg Hbf to Frankfurt-Hahn; the trip takes a little more than 2 hours, and costs €20 with Hahn Express, bookable via flixbus (fixed price one way as of 2018). Other bus companies offer indirect connections only and there is no train to Hahn, though DB operates a bus from Frankfurt main station to Hahn.
- Baden-Baden has an airport, too. Mainly domestic flights are handled at this airport
Cheap Flights to Frankfurt
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- The main train station Heidelberg Hbf is located in the western part of the city, from there you can take a tram to any place downtown e.g. Bismarckplatz (taxis are not recommended as they are far more expensive than trams!) Check for connections to “Heidelberg Bismarckplatz” on German Railway Website
- There are direct train lines from Heidelberg to Stuttgart, Karlsruhe, Mannheim and Frankfurt – and direct long distance trains to Munich, Vienna, Hamburg and Cologne usually running at least every 2 hours.
- For most long distance destinations it is useful to take the regional train to nearby Mannheim Hbf (S-Bahn, about 15 minutes), from where there are frequent direct high speed connections to all major cities in Germany and some places in the nearby countries (e.g. Paris, Zurich, Amsterdam).
- Taking slow trains will be much cheaper on a Saturday or Sunday, especially if you have a five-person group ticket, “Schönes Wochenende”, for € 42 total or every day “Länderticket Baden-Württemberg” for € 22 – 38 total.
- Locomore connects Heidelberg to Stuttgart and Berlin. DB tickets aren’t valid on Locomore and vice versa, since Locomore belongs to the Flixbus company.
The city runs a small but rather effective system of trams and buses. The two most important nodal points are the main station and Bismarckplatz. A single trip costs €2.60, and a day ticket costs €6.70. Ticket machines at most tram and bus stops take cash and cards, and have instructions in English as well as German.
Bus #32 and #33 connect the main train station (Hauptbahnhof) with the old city area; detailed maps, schedules and routes can be found online. A mountain railway runs between four stations (including the castle), linking the old city on the level of the river with the summit of the Königstuhl Mountain, about 400 m (1312 feet) above the city.
The “HeidelbergCARD”, a tourist pass that includes public transportation, many museums, and the lower section of the mountain railway (a separate fare is required for the upper section), can be bought at the tourist information center located just outside the main station.
What to see and do
- Altstadt and Hauptstraße (historical city center and main street). The Hauptstraße leads from Bismarckplatz across the old town. Approximately one mile in length, it is reputedly the longest pedestrian shopping street in Germany.
- Castle. The castle is above the old town, and can be reached by mountain railway (included in the ticket price) or staircase. An audio guide tour of the castle and its grounds is available for a fee near the entrance. It is available in several languages, including English. There is also a statue to the German poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe in the castle gardens. The castle hosts an outdoor Christmas market during December, which can get extremely busy (in recent years, this Christmas market had to be relocated to the Altstadt to protect the bat population in the castle). The castle grounds are free to visit, and offer a great view of the city and river. €7.
- Philosophenweg. The Philosophenweg which can be found on the northern side of the city. It provides a wonderful view across the oldest part of the city. Here you can find the site of the famous Merian Stich (engraving) which is a popular illustration of Heidelberg.
- Heiligenberg. The Heiligenberg mountain which boasts a wonderful view over the old town.
- Thingstätte. The Thingstätte on top of Heiligenberg (an open-air theatre built by the Nazi regime in 1934 to host propaganda events)
- Heiligenberg. Also on the Heiligenberg the remnants of a wall ancient Celts built to keep Germanic tribes out, the Heidenloch, a deep well with unknown origins, and the ruins of a 10th-century cloister.
- Kurpfälzisches Museum. The Kurpfälzisches Museum on the Hauptstraße contains interesting exhibits of items from Heidelberg’s pre-history to modern times.
- Universitätsplatz. The old university on Universitätsplatz in the old city and the adjacent old armory which is now a student cafeteria (but also open to the public).
- Jesuitenkirche. It has 1712 Baroque construction with modern touches inside.
- Heiliggeistkirche. The Heiliggeistkirche church is only one of many large and small churches, but definitely the one with the most interesting history. During the Dark Ages, it was the shelter of the Bibliotheca Palatina, Germany’s oldest library. The Bibliotheca was stolen and brought to Rome but eventually returned in pieces. Today, parts of it can be visited in the University Library (also the oldest and probably the most valuable of its kind in Germany), which is situated close to the old university. You can get a great view of the Heiliggeistkirche, Old Town, and the Neckar river bridge from the castle (Schloss Heidelberg).
What to do in Heidelberg
The city boasts more than twelve cinemas, over eight theaters, including
- Stadttheater, Theaterstraße 10. the large state-run theater
- Zimmertheater, Hauptstraße 118 , ✉ email@example.com. Germany’s oldest private theatre
- Karlstorbahnhof, Am Karlstor 1, 69117 Heidelberg. One of the progressive culture center in the east-end of the old city.
- Halle_02, Zollhofgarten 2, 69115 Heidelberg (Just walk to the other side of the main station towards Bahnstadt). Hosting concerts and exhibitions in a converted warehouse. The area used to be one of the barracks of US Army.
- Königstuhl-Mountain. 568 m (1560 ft) high, 450 m (1480 ft) above Heidelberg, is a nice option to escape the hustle and bustle of Heidelberg downtown. The mountain top of Königstuhl offers a nice view over Heidelberg and the Rhine Valley. In good weather conditions you can see the Northern Black Forest. The same funicular railway that carries visitors to the castle continues to the mountain top. You will have to switch trains once—the final one to the top is a historical wooden funicular train. (A separate fare is required for the historical funicular.) On the top you can have a look at the more-than-100-year-old engine that just pulled you up. (No worries—made in Germany!)
- Himmelsleiter. If you feel more energetic, you can take the Himmelsleiter (Heaven’s Ladder or Sky Ladder) — a stairway of 1200 steps winding up 270 meters (890 ft) up to Königstuhl. It ends 10 meters east of the mountain top funicular station. The lower end of stairs is just above the castle, but a bit hidden.
- Tourist Information at the main station, Willy-Brandt-Platz 1 , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. April 1 – October 31: Monday to Saturday 9AM – 7PM, Sunday, Holidays 10AM – 6PM;November 1 – March 31: Monday to Saturday 9AM – 6PM, Sunday, Holidays closed. The Tourist Information Centers at the rail station has a wide range of information for your every need. Whether you need a room, tickets for city tours and the castle, ideas for things to do or are simply looking for souvenirs.
The main shopping area is from Bismarckplatz along the Hauptstraße. Here you will find the big chains as well as the small unique shops.
- Go by the Cathedral during the day for small markets selling souvenirs
- The English Bookstore, Plöck 93. For books in English
BBQ & Beer – On sunny summer days the “Neckarwiese” (‘Neckar meadow’, northern bank of Neckar river, just west of Bismarckplatz) is full of people relaxing in the sun, having a Barbecue or a beer… This place also offers a nice view to the castle. You will have to bring your own grill, beer and steaks. Cheap grills to use once are available at the “Bauhaus” do-it-yourself store at Kurfürsten-Anlage 11, just 200m south of Bismarckplatz. Nice way to mix with locals. Grilling is only allowed in two zones marked with cobblestones. Do not put one-way-grills onto the grass, it will leave a hole in the grass.
Snacks – Along the Hauptstraße, which runs through the center of town, you will find several bakeries that serve local specialities including “Brezeln” (pretzels). Department stores have a nice selection of delicatessen stalls called “Markthallen” where you can eat everything on the spot.
Cafes – Many of the cafes in Heidelberg set up outside tables when the weather is fair, and these are enjoyed by locals and tourists alike. A popular destination for summer cafe beer sipping and lounging is the Marktplatz, which is adjacent to the Heiliggeistkirche.
Meals – The Haupstraße is plentiful with an amazing variety of restaurants. Dishes tend to be served in large portions, relatively inexpensive and of good quality. You can find something for almost every taste including Japanese, Indian, Italian, Chinese, German and Bavarian. American fast food and “Döner” restaurants cater to the budget conscious and late-night crowds.
- Mensa im Marstallhof. Maybe the most beautiful University Canteen in Germany, offering food and beer at low prices in a historic buildling and a Beer Garden!. Everybody is welcome, Open till late…
- Sunisas Thai Imbiss. Speyerer Straße 1, 69115 Heidelberg,  6221 / 6555533: if you want a change from German food: an authentic, tasty Thai diner and takeaway with reasonable prices. It also has terrace, pool tables and cocktails. Open at 11AM till late at night.
- Thaipan. on the Hauptstraße, at the Universitätsplatz. An excellent, reasonably priced, Thai restaurant, with great service. The food is as authentic as it can get in Europe. Try the Giow Grob (deep fried Chicken Parcels) for a starter. In general, ask for “Thai spicy” if you want the real thing but only if you can deal with it!
- Korean/Sushi restaurant. Heiliggeiststraße 3, close to the Marktplatz, next to the Hotel zum Rathaus, a seemingly little-known, but great sushi place (also serves Korean food).
- La Locanda 26, Steubenstraße 26. Opening Hours: 11.00 – 23.00 / Wednesday closed. middle.
- BrunnenStube (Restaurant BrunnenStube), Kranichweg 15 (see website for directions). Mon.-Sat. from 17:00, closed Sundays and some public holidays;. Nice restaurant with modern German cuisine and moderate prices. Great fish, lamb and many seasonal specials. Located in the west of Heidelberg’s center in a living area. Patio dining in summer. Main course from €7.90-18.90.
More than 300 bars, pubs, clubs, discothèques and the like, from Bavarian style tourist restaurants with deer antlers on the walls to extremely left-wing student bars which reserve the right to refuse police officers entry to the bar. You name it. Find your place and enjoy yourself. Heidelberg knows no curfew. Most bars close at 1AM, but especially the students bars are often open until the early morning. Although the locals—even the police officers—are used to drunk tourists as well as to drunk students, please be calm on your way home and do not riot. As a remnant of the student revolts, Heidelberg has the largest ratio of policemen per capita and you may find yourself in the arms of an officer much faster than you think.
If you are a young person and happen to discover one of the student parties (which are quite numerous but advertised mostly by word-of-mouth), you scored the jackpot. Get inside, get a (dirt cheap) beer and have fun. But try and avoid being recognised as a tourist. No party ends before 3AM and many run until 6 or 7AM. Either Untere Straße or the Zieglers (Heidelbergs oldest students’ bar) are frequently crowded with students.
- Wines are produced around Heidelberg (e.g. Schriesheim, Wiesloch), but it might be difficult to get hold of them – unless you simply go to a vineyard… When you buy wine, always a safe bet is a Riesling from Pfalz or some white wine from Baden instead, or try any of the numerous wines from other German wine regions.
- Vineyards Vineyards are usually located in the middle of small towns along Bergstraße (Highway B3). Fruit farmers sell wine right on their farm e.i. vineyard – make sure you also ask for Apple Wine (Hesse specialty) and New Wine (wine still in process of fermentation – sold from the barrel, bring a canister!) which you can sometimes drink in some ‘wine-beergarden’ right on site. Take a tram (5/5R) northbound to any place between Schriesheim and Lützelsachsen or a local train (S3/S4) southbound to Wiesloch – or (even better, if you have the time) S1 or S2 to Neustadt, where you will find yourself in an endless landscape of vine stocks.
- Mensa im Marstallhof. Maybe the most beautiful University Canteen in Germany and maybe also Heidelberg’s cheapest Beer Garden. Serving Welde-Beer (the Beer with screwed bottle necks and answering on any question… ) Everybody is welcome, Open till late…
- Vetter’s Brauhaus, Steingasse. Vetter’s is famous for having one of the strongest beers in world (Vetter 33).
- Kulturbrauerei. Next to the Old Bridge in the Leyergasse there is this small breweries
- Großer Mohr. Small but highly recommended. Tuesday night the odds are high to find the Mohr besieged by medical students.
- Sonderbar. The latter boasts a huge collection of absinthe, whiskeys and whiskys, as well as a very distinctive atmosphere.
- Destille. There is a tree in the center of the establishment.
- Trinidad. This cocktail bar at the edge of the Old Town is small, but famous for its drinks and continuously receives praise in local restaurant guides.
- O’Reillys. An Irish pub north of the river, just over the bridge from Bisi (Bismarckplatz).
- Dubliner. A good Irish pub at the center of Heidelberg Mainstreet (Downtown)
- Ham Ham’s. A great place to chill, drink, and smoke
- Nektar. A very relaxed and chill place to enjoy a drink and party
- B.J.Z. Bar. Great place to party in Emmertsgrund, its a B.Y.O.A. (Bring your own alcohol) and you can crash anywhere in the house
- The Brass Monkey. Friendly bar on Haspelgasse, just opposite the old bridge. Good crowd and all staff also speak fluent English.
- Star Coffee. If you are looking for coffee rather than alcohol, Star Coffee has two branches, one off Bismarckplatz and the other on the Hauptstraße, serving a variety of coffees and offering free WiFi access.
- Moro Cafes. Fewer computers but more style are found in the two Moro Cafes, directly at the Alte Brücke and one on the Hauptstraße.
Recently, most pubs close much earlier in the night, even on the weekends at around 2AM. Just move to one of the numerous clubs, which usually have no entrance fee this late at night.
Heidelberg is an extremely safe city (even by German standards). However, women walking alone at night should take the usual precautions they would do anywhere else. Walking along the northern Neckar banks at night would not be advised, except in groups, particularly by the Studentenwohnheime (dorms). The shrubs are thick and it is very dark.
Usually there won’t be any problem. If you are a bit ‘paranoid’ you can take a Taxi. If you are from New York, you might think they are cheap – if you are from East-Europe or Asia you will feel like they are ripping you off… use as needed. There are also “Frauentickets” available for women, you can buy these coupons for €8 and they will cover the fare for anywhere in the city.
Don’t walk on bicycle lanes! – Really don’t! (they are often painted in red, but always separated from the pedestrian lanes by a white line): Heidelberg has more cyclists than motorists, and many of them have a rather cavalier way of riding. The southern parallel street to Hauptstraße (called Plöck) is the main traffic channel for student cyclists between Bismarkplatz and University Square. During the day it can be such a buzz, it’s already a sight worth visiting. But watch out: Many cyclists feel safe from the tourists there and lose all their good manners.
- Steffi’s Hostel Heidelberg, Alte Eppelheimer Str. 50 (Just walk straight out of the station and cross the big street and the tram rails in front of you. On the other side there’s a modern building, where you enter a shopping arcade (Kurfürstenpassage – Jack Wolfskin / Backpacker Store). Again you walk straight ahead through the passage and leave it on the opposite side. From the exit you can already see a big brick stone building in front of you. Here on the third floor above the Lidl supermarket, Steffis Hostel Heidelberg is situated.) , ✉ email@example.com. Check-in: 10AM – 1PM and 5PM – 8PM, check-out: until 12. Dorms from €20, everything included.
- Youth Hostel Heidelberg (Jugendherberge Heildelberg), Tiergartenstraße 5. Large well maintained hostel, on the eastern bank of the Neckar River, 25 min walk away from the central rail station. Public transportation: take bus 32 from central rail station towards north (Sportzentrum Nord), get off at Jugendherberge stop. Dorms from €28,30 including breakfast and linen, various concession apply. Towels can be rented from the reception for additional €2.
- Hotel ISG. In the suburb of Boxberg about a 15 minute taxi ride from central Heidelberg. Fitted out in the Bauhaus style the rooms are comfortable enough (and the bathrooms are excellent) but there is nothing to do in Boxberg.
- Hotel Restaurant Scheid. is a nice, quiet, reasonably priced hotel in the suburb of Schriesheim, a short tram ride north of Heidelberg. Schriesheim is built on a hill so if you are hitting the clubs, don’t forget about the late 30 min. night walk up the hill from the tram stop (Schriesheim Bahnhof).
- B&B Hotel, Rudolf-Diesel-Str. 7 (corner of Speyerer Str.) (Bus 33 from the train station to Rudolf-Diesel-Str. stop) , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Check-in: 14:00, check-out: 12:00. The opposite of what the words “B&B” usually mean – new, efficient and impersonal. About 1 km from the station in the direction away from the old town (it’s walkable), in an industrial zone (across from a car dealership, between a NATO installation and a disused rail line), this concrete box with a free parking lot provides surprisingly quiet, modern rooms with all amenities (including free WiFi). For truly sociofobic (or after midnight) it is even possible to check in without interacting with staff – a terminal in the lobby will take your credit card and issue the code for opening your room door; when it’s time to leave, there’s no key to turn in. If bed (comfortable) and breakfast (uninspired; €8) is indeed all you’re after, this is the place. Don’t believe Google Maps – they will send you to the wrong end of Rudolf-Diesel St., and eat in town before heading home – there are no decent restaurants around. Singles €54.
- The Ritter, Hauptstraße 178 , ✉ email@example.com. The Ritter is the oldest building (1592) in Heidelberg that has outlasted all fires and wars that have haunted the city over the times. It can get a little noisy considering its location directly at the heart of the Altstadt. Also a picturesque photo opportunity. Double occupancy: €118 to 206.
- Hip Hotel, Hauptstraße 115. This was revamped in 2005 as a boutique hotel. Each room is modeled after a famous city, the most interesting room being the Zermatt (for Heidi and skiing fans).
- Hotel Neu Heidelberg. In the west of Heidelberg’s center. 3 star hotel with a restaurant, breakfast buffet, terrace, garden, WiFi, bicycles for guests, free parking, various int. tv channels, etc. Easily reachable by car and public transportation.
- NH Hotel Heidelberg. 1km west of the edge of the Altstadt, in an old brewery. However it’s been totally renovated and fitted out in a modernist decor, all glass, wood floors and exposed metal. Some of the rooms are very pleasant, though the ones overlooking the main road can be noisy. Food in the bar is disappointing.
- Crowne Plaza. A fairly standard anonymous business hotel just off Bismarckplatz. Rooms near the lifts can be extremely noisy, so are best avoided.
- Hotel Holländer Hof Heidelberg. Neckarstaden 66. The hotel has a unique view of the Neckar River and the Philosopher´s Walk. It is just opposite the Old Bridge.
- Europäischer Hof. A classic privately owned five star hotel just on the edge of the Altstadt. Pleasant atmosphere and attentive staff. Most of the rooms look out over the courtyard and are therefore admirably quiet.
- Hirschgasse Heidelberg, Hirschgasse 3. Check-in: 3PM, check-out: 12AM. The oldest hotel in Heidelberg and the oldest student dwelling house in Germany. It was first mentioned in a love story in 1472 and is nestled in a little side valley of a select residential area opposite the Heidelberg castle. An impressive walk along the River Neckar will take you to the Altstadt on the other side of the river. Mark Twain wrote about this in his book “A Tramp Abroad.” The rooms are all unique and will delight Laura Ashley fans and the ones seeking a good shot of authentic romantic ambiance. It comes along with two restaurants: the historic Mensurstube with regional dishes and over 250 year old tables, even Count Otto von Bismarck carved his name into. The elegant Le Gourmet is a classic French restaurant with attentive but yet uncomplicated service and will delight your credit cards with a good value for a swipe. A vineyard only a stone’s throw away from the hotel “Sunnyside upon the Bridge” provides a good local Riesling or Late Burgundy. from 125 to 335.
Hotels Heidelberg: Popularity
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|Star Inn Hotel & Suites Premium Heidelberg, by Quality|
|Holiday Inn Express Heidelberg City Centre|
|Lotte - The Backpackers|
|sevenDays Hotel BoardingHouse||★★★★|
|Hotel Goldene Rose||★★★|
|The Heidelberg Exzellenz Hotel||★★★|
|Leonardo Hotel Heidelberg||★★★★|
|Leonardo Hotel Heidelberg City Center||★★★|
|Qube Hotel Bergheim||★★★★|
- Bertha Benz Memorial Route – Follow the tracks of the world’s first automobile journey (Mannheim – Pforzheim – Mannheim) back in 1888, leading right through Heidelberg
- Small cities on the Bergstraße between Darmstadt and Heidelberg: Weinheim, Heppenheim, Bensheim and Zwingenberg
- Dilsberg / Neckarsteinach – has four small castles in a row. Dilsberg’s castle has a well which is accessible by a tunnel. Neckarsteinach’s railway station is 20 mins away taking the S1 or S2 train from Hauptbahnhof or Karlstorbahnhof. From there it is a 5 km walk on a forest trail to Dilsberg, a medieval village with a town wall. The Dilsberg youth hostel is in the old city gate.
Wirecard : How Jan Marsalek Friend Henry O’Sullivan became “Corinna Müller”
The Briton Henry O’Sullivan is regarded as the dazzling puller of many Wirecard deals and friend of Jan Marsalek and internal emails show how big his influence was in the company.
Henry O’Sullivan celebrated his 40th birthday in paradise. He invited lawyers, managers and high-ranking executives from Wirecard to the lonely dream island of Benguerra off the coast of the East African state of Mozambique. Board member Jan Marsalek and his girlfriend should also come.
As a souvenir, the host wanted: pens for the school children in town and champagne for the party weekend.
The luxury resort Azura Retreats, which O’Sullivan rented in November 2014, had cabins right on the beach, palm trees, and a beach. On arrival, the guests would have to wade through knee-deep water as the British businessman’s assistant warned a month before the celebration. That wasn’t a problem for Jan Marsalek. He preferred to travel by helicopter anyway, according to an email from his secretary.
The extravagant birthday plans reveal a lot about two of the central key figures in the Wirecard scandal. Jan Marsalek (40) and Henry O’Sullivan (46) are close confidants who worked together on big deals far away from the headquarters in Aschheim. Now the judiciary is asking whether millions have been diverted. Wirecard is insolvent and Marsalek is on the run.
O’Sullivan does not answer inquiries. At the beginning of 2020, he only wanted to talk to the examiners from KMPG and EY under certain conditions but then he was no longer available to them.
The beefy Brit was known for his dissolute lifestyle. In Singapore he often dined in a top restaurant on the roof of the Marina Bay Sands hotel, with a view over the harbor. To save time on business trips, he preferred to travel short distances by helicopter instead of taxi and in the meantime he lived on a yacht in Monaco.
Marsalek had O’Sullivan flown in in 2014 to celebrate with him at the Munich Oktoberfest. A year later they flew through South Africa in the Learjet 45XR. And when the Briton wanted to meet the Wirecard executive board in Jakarta in 2014, he asked an Indonesian employee by email about a hotel that would tolerate the “type of spring break business trips”.
Beyond its luxury life, only fragments of O’Sullivan’s businesses are known. The Briton did not hold an official position at Wirecard. Many consider him a “phantom” in the background, a member of the mysterious clique around Marsalek.
It was stored in the Wirecard address book with an external e-mail address for freelancers – his profile photo showed Pablo Escobar, the Colombian drug lord: another bad joke by Jan Marsalek, as insiders suspect.
As much as O’Sullivan was on business trips, he was always careful to be discreet. This is also shown by an episode from spring 2020, when the Wirecard world was already falling apart and auditors examined the opaque third-party business for which Marsalek was responsible.
O’Sullivan was very knowledgeable about third party business and a strange company purchase in India in 2015. He was therefore a sought-after discussion partner for the annual auditors from EY and the special auditors from KPMG. O’Sullivan apparently managed to convince the supervisory board of a special protective measure.
A sought-after discussion partner for EY and KPMG
O’Sullivan demanded at the end of April or beginning of March 2016 that his name should not be recorded in the “final report” or in any other correspondence with Wirecard. “These papers have a habit of appearing in public,” he wrote to an assistant at Marsalek. He assumes that “everything that is written will ultimately be read by others” and he therefore insists on being given a pseudonym.
This is how Mr. O’Sullivan became Mrs. Müller. On March 4, a legal advisor to the Supervisory Board wrote to Wirecard management: “As discussed yesterday, a code name should be used for all further e-mails and other references. Proposal: ‘Ms. Corinna Müller’. ”On the same day, EY agreed not to use the name in communication with Wirecard international.
According to supervisory board circles, however, it was clear: There should be no special treatment in the confidential internal audit report, and O’Sullivan’s real name would have been mentioned here.
But it did not get to that. According to the “Wall Street Journal”, the special auditor KPMG was cross: O’Sullivan had also made the condition of their auditors anonymous. When they refused, he refused to speak.
He could tell so much in the process. In the ten years before the bankruptcy alone, Wirecard acquired companies for 1.2 billion euros, according to insolvency administrator Michael Jaffé. In his report, Jaffé writes that the deals were one reason for the “enormous consumption of liquidity in recent years”. The public prosecutor is investigating former executives on suspicion of fraud and breach of trust.
O’Sullivan was involved in numerous Wirecard deals. His name is linked to one of the largest and most dubious deals the payment service provider has done in recent years: the takeover of the Indian Hermes group in 2015. Wirecard bought the companies from the Mauritius-registered fund Emerging Markets Investment Fund 1A (EMIF 1A) for 326 million euros. The amazing thing: the fund had only acquired the same company and assets a few months earlier for around 35 million euros and it is still not clear who was behind that deal
Marsalek stated in an interview with Handelsblatt at the beginning of 2020 that he had not checked the background. But insiders report that O’Sullivan and Marsalek were the ones who planned the deal and who ultimately benefited from it. In any case, the original Hermes sellers now feel cheated. They filed a lawsuit that revealed that it was O’Sullivan who negotiated the sale to the EMIF 1A fund for € 35 million.
The central figure in Senjo was also O’Sullivan, even if he did not hold an official position. A PR consultant for the British company stated in 2019 that her client worked for Senjo. That’s only half the story. In practice, O’Sullivan is said to have been the one in charge of Senjo. In Singapore, the authorities are now investigating for falsification of accounts in the vicinity of the group of companies.
How hard Marsalek worked internally at Wirecard for his party friend O’Sullivan is shown by a short-term lending business from 2016, which several Wirecard board members dealt with. Ascheimer Wirecard Bank AG granted Cottisford Holdings Ltd, a generous credit line of ten million euros from O’Sullivan, for which Wirecard AG guaranteed as internal emails and documents prove this.
“Today the supervisory board formally approved the loan retrospectively, but was not ‘amused’ about it,” wrote the then board member Rainer Wexeler of Wirecard Bank AG on March 2, 2016 to Marsalek. He complained that the panel had been poorly informed. Wexeler asked: “Can you please give me the private address of O’Sullivan and some key business data about his business, his connection to Wirecard AG, etc.?”
Wirecard Scandal claims another Victim – Heike Pauls from Commerzbank
It’s not even eight months since Germany’s number one payment service provider imploded: Wirecard had to admit in June 2020 that billions of euros never existed on the balance sheet. As a result, board members had to go to jail or disappeared without a trace. Since then, auditors have been distrusted, and the head of the BaFin supervisory authority has to look for a new job. The youngest victim is Heike Pauls of the German Commerzbank.
Up until a few weeks before the Wirecard scandal burst, several analysts in various banks believed in Wirecard. They unshakably believed that the annual financial statements for 2019, which had been postponed several times, would end well, some experts continued to insist on Wirecard price targets of 180 to 240 euros.
One of the bravest supporters of the scandal group was Heike Pauls from Commerzbank. The analyst was always loyal to Wirecard: She dismissed critical reports about the payment processor as false reports and even a few weeks before the collapse she issued a buy recommendation with a price target of 230 euros for the Wirecard share.
As the Spiegel reported, Pauls had in the meantime also provided the management of the payment processor with sensitive information that it had collected specifically on the capital market. In January Commerzbank had already restructured the research department and relieved the analyst of her duties, now the announcement was made:
“Commerzbank has terminated the employment relationship.”
The Wirecard scandal is far from being dealt with. Further personnel consequences in various economic areas could follow. Extensive claims for damages by investors against the insolvent payment service provider are also examined and the the Wirecard share remains taboo for any investors.
Wirecard Committee – Doubts about Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg’s Credibility
Didn’t Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg tell the whole truth when he appeared as a witness on the Wirecard investigative committee? Internal documents that are available to the ARD studio fuel the suspicion. The SPD accuses him of having lied to the committee and in the opposition too, doubts about its credibility are growing.
In December Guttenberg was asked about his role in the Wirecard scandal in the Bundestag. It was also about an article that the former CSU minister published in the “Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung” at the end of March 2020. The topic: The role of short sales in the Corona crisis. At the time, Wirecard was targeted by shortsellers, i.e. stock exchange traders who bet on falling prices for a company and Guttenberg had argued against such short sales in the article.
Mail to ex-Wirecard boss Markus Braun
Guttenberg apparently did not want to draw a direct connection to his work for Wirecard, but there are doubts about this representation.
An email to the then Wirecard boss Markus Braun, however, indicates that Guttenberg could very well have had the now insolvent DAX group in mind when he wrote the text for the FAZ.
In this email of March 20, 2020, the Managing Director of the communications company Edelman, Rüdiger Assion, proposed a “Short Selling Action Plan” to the Wirecard boss. Among other things, this contained the suggestion that Guttenberg could write a guest commentary on the subject of short sales in the newspapers FAZ or “Die Welt”. An argumentation paper with key messages is also attached to the mail. Just six days later, exactly such a guest comment appears in the FAZ. Guttenberg’s argumentation shows clear similarities with the line proposed in the argumentation paper.
SPD speaks of a lie
The SPD chairman in the Wirecard committee, Zimmermann, therefore accuses Guttenberg of not telling the truth on the witness stand. Zimmermann told the ARD city studio: “He (Guttenberg’s note by the editor) lied to the investigative committee and tried to set the wrong track when he denied arguing for a ban on short sales in the interests of Wirecard. A real surprise is this lack of honesty not with him. ” Now it must be clarified whether Guttenberg deliberately wanted to mislead the investigative committee.
CDU defends Guttenberg
Guttenberg is defended by the CDU. The MP Matthias Hauer said that the SPD should primarily devote itself to the question of why the BaFin, supervised by Finance Minister Olaf Scholz, imposed the short sale ban on Wirecard. “This should certainly contribute more to the explanation of Wirecard than an article in the name of an ex-politician on the subject in the FAZ.”
But doubts about Guttenberg’s credibility are also growing among the opposition. The chairman of the Greens, Danyal Bayaz, said that Guttenberg’s remarks on his opinion contribution had already been implausible in the committee of inquiry. “Apparently it was part of the advisory service to specifically win over public opinion for a renewed ban on short selling.” That does not cast a good light on Guttenberg’s honesty.
The Linke chairman in the committee, Fabio de Masi, can imagine summoning the former Federal Minister again: “If Mr. Guttenberg was Baron Münchhausen and had said the untruth in front of the committee of inquiry, this would also be criminally relevant, (…) the question is then whether his other statements that he had met the Chancellor privately are also untrue. “
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