Dortmund attack motivated by stock market speculation, police say

German-Russian man arrested over bomb attack on Borussia Dortmund team bus

German police say stock market speculation, not Islamist terror, was the likely motive behind a bomb attack on the team bus of the Borussia Dortmund football club.

Just before 6am on Friday, special branch police in southern Germany apprehended a 28-year-old man near the southwestern town of Tübingen in connection with the April 11th attack that injured two people.

The man, an electrician with dual German and Russian citizenship, faces three charges: attempted murder, causing an explosion and aggravated criminal assault.

Three explosives detonated as the Borussia team bus headed to the Dortmund stadium for a Champions League match against the French side AS Monaco. The man who has been arrested, identified only as Sergej W, was a guest in the team's hotel at the time, in a room with a view of the street where the explosion took place, detonated by remote control.


Letters found at the scene suggested an Islamist motive but the 28 year old, the only suspect in the investigation, was more interested in enriching himself through manipulating the stock price of Germany’s only listed soccer team, investigators believe.

“The suspect bought three different derivatives on shares of [Borussia Dortmund ]” says Frauke Köhler, spokeswoman for the federal prosecutor. “The majority were bought on April 11th, the day of the attack.”

Hoped for windfall

Investigators say the man hoped to secure a multimillion windfall if, after placing his bet, “players were seriously injured or even killed”, driving down Borussia’s valuation, before the option was due in June.

The man reportedly took out a consumer loan on April 9th, money police believe he used for stock transactions worth €78,000 tracked to a computer using the hotel’s internet connection.

After the explosion, while other hotel guests rushed out, staff told police the German-Russian man ordered a steak and later had a massage.

After observing the man for a week, police intercepted him shortly after he left his home in Rottenburg, near Tübingen. At the same time, another police team broke into his home to secure evidence.

The man, who is believed to have acted alone, was raised in the Black Forest region with a family originating in the Urals. He was a trained electrician and considered capable of building a bomb which police described as “very professional”.

Three charges were concealed in a hedge along the bus route but explosive exports say the main charge was placed too high, ensuring most of its explosive power missed the bus. Nevertheless the explosions shattered windows on the bus and injured two men, Dortmund defender Marc Bartra and a police outrider. One metal shard in the bomb buried itself in one of the bus headrests.

Islamist motive

From the start, police were doubtful of the Islamist motive alluded to in three copies of a letter found near the scene of the explosion. The unusual Borussia-related transaction on the day of the attack had already attracted attention of money-laundering officials at the man’s bank. They contacted police to report the suspicious transaction hours after the attack. One German stock market expert described the Borussia options deal as the work of “either an extremely inexperienced trader or someone who expected an extreme price collapse”.

Federal interior minister Thomas de Maizière said the motive, if proven, would be a “particularly revolting form of avarice”.

Borussia’s head coach Thomas Tuchel said, “it was a good feeling for players that there’s been a breakthrough”.

A day after the explosion, German police raided two apartments and took into custody one man, an Iraqi national with alleged Islamic State links. They arrested him a day later, but on suspicion of heading an Islamic State commando group, and not for links to the Dortmund blast.

Derek Scally

Derek Scally

Derek Scally is an Irish Times journalist based in Berlin