German prosecutors have arrested the head of a Dubai-based subsidiary of Wirecard, widening the circle of suspects in a multibillion-dollar fraud investigation into the collapse of the payments company. The Munich prosecutor's office said in a statement that it had questioned the chief executive of Cardsystems Middle East FZ-LLC earlier in the day and arrested him on the basis of a warrant.
The arrest was made on suspicion of conspiracy to commit fraud, attempted fraud and aiding and abetting other crimes, prosecutors said. They said there was a risk that he would flee or tamper with evidence. Wirecard filed for insolvency last month, owing creditors four billion euros ($4.5bn) after disclosing a $2.1bn hole in its accounts that its auditor, EY, said was the result of a sophisticated global fraud.
Investigative journalists and speculators had long highlighted Wirecard's reliance on an obscure trio of third-party acquiring partners - one of which was Cardsystems - to generate the bulk of its reported revenue and profit. Wirecard's creditor committee was meanwhile set to convene for the first time on Tuesday, people close to the matter said.
German prosecutors have said they are investigating Wirecard's Chief Financial Officer Alexander von Knoop and Chief Product Officer Susanne Steidl, in addition to former Chief Executive Markus Braun, pictured here, and Chief Operating Officer Jan Marsalek [File: Michael Dalder/Reuters]
Investigation gathers pace
The latest arrest came after police and public prosecutors raided Wirecard's headquarters in Munich and four properties in Germany and Austria last Wednesday as they widened their investigation.
Prosecutors have said they are investigating Wirecard's Chief Financial Officer Alexander von Knoop and Chief Product Officer Susanne Steidl, in addition to former Chief Executive Markus Braun and Chief Operating Officer Jan Marsalek. Wirecard did not immediately respond to a Reuters News Agency request to comment on behalf of von Knoop and Steidl.
Braun has been released after posting five million euros ($5.66m) bail. Marsalek's whereabouts are unknown, and his lawyer is declining requests for comment.
Creditors will convene on Tuesday to discuss the latest on the fraud investigation, as well as planned asset sales with which insolvency administrator Michael Jaffe hopes to recoup at least a fraction of the money owed, people close to the matter said. One of the people said Jaffe was likely to raise only about 400-500 million euros ($452m - $566m) for Wirecard's assets, including about 100 million euros ($113m) for its banking unit. That works out to about 10 percent of the total they are owed.
Wirecard's lenders will be represented by ING and German regional bank LBBW, while bondholders will be represented by a law firm appointed by Cyrus Capital, people close to the matter said. Holders of other securities have named German law firm Tilp to the creditor committee, while employees will also be represented, the people said.
WireCard had partnered with also now closed Blockchain TRON Network in April of 2019 to offer financial digital services