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Dortmund bombing suspect 'bet on club's shares falling'

Reporters and cameramen gather near a house in Rottenburg where German police arrested a man suspected of planting explosives targeting the bus of the Borussia Dortmund football team. (Reuters Photo)

BERLIN: In what seems like a plot from a movie, police have arrested a man on suspicion of attacking the bus of the German football team Borussia Dortmund as part of a scheme to profit from a slump in the club’s share price.

The 28-year-old, who has both German and Russian citizenship, was apprehended in the southern city of Tuebingen on Friday, the Federal Prosecutor’s Office said. On the day of the April 11 attack in the team’s home city, he bought 15,000 options on Borussia Dortmund shares, betting they would drop sharply.

Player Marc Bartra was treated in hospital for injuries following three bomb explosions near the team’s bus as it headed to a Champions League match against AS Monaco.

The suspect, identified only as Sergej W, is being investigated for attempted murder, causing an explosion and dangerous assault, police said.

The man had booked a room in the same hotel as the team overlooking the site of the attack. He bought put options online via the IP address of the hotel, the prosecutor’s office said. The options grant their owner the right to sell shares at a fixed price in the future. The man had taken out a loan to finance the transaction, according to the statement.

The man later placed three bombs in a hedge on the road that the team bus was due to take to the stadium, according to prosecutors. The explosives contained metal pins, which after the explosion were found as far as 250 metres away. One pin was found in a headrest of one the bus seats, the authorities said.

"A massive share drop would have had to be expected, had a player been gravely injured or even killed as the result of the attack," the prosecutor’s office said.

On the day of the attack, 15,000 equity-covered put options were traded at 18 cents apiece at 11.16am in Frankfurt, about eight hours before the bombs went off. The options, issued by DZ Bank and due to expire on June 16, give the right to sell Borussia Dortmund shares at 5.20 euros. The shares closed at 5.61 euros that afternoon, shortly before the attack took place, and fell as low as 5.50 euros the next day. The stock hasn’t traded below 5.20 euros since February. DZ Bank declined to comment.

The suspect bought three types of derivatives, with the suspicious trades leading authorities to the man, said Frauke Koehler, a spokeswoman for the prosecutors' office.

Police are still calculating what the maximum profit could have been had the plot gone as planned, she said. A judge was scheduled to decide later on Friday whether there was enough evidence to keep the man in custody.

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