“From that moment on there was a crisis”: a witness describes the days of Wirecard’s demise

“From that moment on there was a crisis”
Witness describes the days of Wirecard’s downfall

Who is responsible for the billion dollar fraud at Wirecard? In the criminal proceedings before the Munich Regional Court, witnesses and defendants incriminate each other. The former head of production Steidl now gives an insight into how the last few days of the scandalous group went.

At the scandalous Wirecard group, top manager Jan Marsalek had access to billions, independently of the other board members, according to a former colleague. With the unauthorized transfer of the sums allegedly managed by trustees from Singapore to the Philippines, Marsalek antagonized the then CFO Alexander von Knoop, said the former product director Susanne Steidl as a witness in the Wirecard criminal case before the Munich Regional Court. “He was so angry,” she said. “Quite right.”

Knoop has not yet been questioned in the process. Marsalek has gone into hiding. Steidl, against whom the public prosecutor is investigating separately, supported statements made by the ex-company boss Markus Braun, who was accused in the process. The latter had said that Marsalek had informed him in February 2020 that he had unsolicited transferred billions of euros booked in trust accounts from Singapore to the Philippines. “I remember asking him if he was out of his mind,” Braun said.

A special investigation by the auditing company KPMG was carried out at Wirecard at the time, which finally found no evidence for the sum of 1.9 billion euros. The group then collapsed in June 2020. The bankruptcy is one of the biggest financial scandals in German post-war history.

“Susanne, look, we have a problem”

Shortly before the collapse, Braun gave the presumed prime suspect, Marsalek, the right excuse to flee abroad. Steidl described the dramatic days in June 2020 in court, when it became clear that 1.9 billion euros could not be found. According to her, it was only then that both she and Knoop’s CFO realized the seriousness of the situation.

The 1.9 billion euros were allegedly booked in Philippine trust accounts. However, the local bank informed the group that the signatures on the contracts were forged. The chief financial officer then came to her office, reported Steidl. “Susanne, look, we have a problem,” said von Knoop. “From that moment on there was a crisis,” the manager recalled.

Marsalek was responsible for Asia on the Wirecard board. CEO Braun then said: “Jan, you have to fly to the Philippines.” Marsalek should therefore personally clarify the problem there. It cannot be deduced from Steidl’s statement that Braun deliberately provided Marsalek with an excuse to flee – she said nothing about that. On June 18, 2020, Marsalek was suspended. “He then said goodbye to me, he flies to the Philippines and we’ll see each other in two weeks,” said Steidl. But Marsalek never entered there. Instead, the manager is said to have fled to Russia via Belarus, and he is wanted on an arrest warrant.

Letter from Marsalek causes a stir

Braun, on the other hand, turned himself in to the judiciary, as did the key witness from the public prosecutor’s office. Both have now been in custody for three years. According to the public prosecutor’s office, a gang of fraudsters at Wirecard, with the significant participation of Braun and Marsalek, invented bogus deals worth billions. The investigators estimate the damage to the group’s lenders at over three billion euros. The accusation is essentially based on the statements of the co-defendant key witness Oliver Bellenhaus, former Wirecard manager in Dubai.

According to Braun, both business and proceeds were genuine. Instead, Marsalek, Bellenhaus and accomplices are said to have diverted and embezzled two billion euros from the group. Marsalek recently sent the court a sensational letter through his lawyer, in which he accused former employee and key witness Bellenhaus of being a liar.

Therefore, Braun’s defense attaches great importance to the letter. However, the judges only want to decide after a period of reflection whether to include the letter as a “written witness statement” for the taking of evidence. “I will not break that over my knee at night,” said the presiding judge Markus Födisch. The defense of the key witness has declared the Marsalek letter to be “nonsense”.

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