Connect with us

Germany

Wirecard Scandal claims another Victim – Heike Pauls from Commerzbank

Avatar

Published

on

heike paul

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.

 

Germany

Wirecard : How Jan Marsalek Friend Henry O’Sullivan became “Corinna Müller”

Avatar

Published

on

Henry OSullivan

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.

How those involved initially adhered to the language regulation became apparent on March 4, 2020. When O’Sullivan allegedly canceled an appointment in Monaco due to Corona entry regulations from Singapore, Marsalek’s assistant wrote to the auditors at KPMG: “Ms. Müller is herself aware of the time pressure and has agreed to contact us tomorrow with a short-term alternative. “

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.

O’Sullivan also appears at another important point in the Wirecard network, the so-called third-party business. Wirecard achieved a large part of its sales with it, at least according to the balance sheet. Essentially, three companies provided the supposed income: Pay Easy from the Philippines, Al Alam from Dubai and Senjo from Singapore.

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 credit for companies in a tax haven

Marsalek did not reply in writing, but less than a month later he informed him why O’Sullivan’s company had not paid the money back on the agreed date. “The delay resulted from an unexpected complication in the distribution of dividends from one of its holdings.” O’Sullivan believes that the problem “will be resolved in the next few days,” wrote Marsalek.

Wexeler was evidently unsure of the loan. He asked: “It would still be important to know how the money that we made available to him was invested.” There is no answer to this, but that Marsalek suddenly advocated the loan “just days later” long-term “.

The borrower, Cottisford Holdings Ltd., also comes from an island that is likely to be O’Sullivan’s favorite vacation destination, as the British Virgin Islands are a paradise not only for tourists, but also for lovers of lax tax rules.

Continue Reading

Germany

Wirecard Committee – Doubts about Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg’s Credibility

Avatar

Published

on

Wirecard Committee Doubts about 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. “

 

Continue Reading

Germany

German Gambling Regulation – Wirecard sent Politicians On a Lobbying Tour

Avatar

Published

on

Wulf Hambach

Wirecard has been lobbying for less strict gambling regulation in Germany for years and the company paid thousands of euros a month to lawyers and an ex-head of government, internal emails show.

In recent years, the insolvent payment service provider Wirecard has lobbied for illegal gaming providers and their payment service providers to be prosecuted less strictly.

The documents also show that Wirecard hired several ex-politicians for its purposes, including the former Hamburg mayor Ole von Beust and the former Prime Minister of Schleswig-Holstein, Peter Harry Carstensen, both from the CDU.

Investigators dropped the case

Carstensen was apparently mediated by the law firm Hambach & Hambach. Lawyer Wulf Hambach, who has been a consultant to numerous gaming companies for years, has advised the Wirecard management board intensively for years, according to the emails. Wirecard came into the focus of investigators in 2017 through reports, because the bank processed payments on a large scale for online casino providers who did not have a license in Germany .

According to NDR information, the Munich I public prosecutor’s office initiated investigations against Wirecard at that time but it was discontinued years later because the investigators said they could not understand the payments. Licenses for online casino games are not granted in Germany with limited exceptions in Schleswig-Holstein.

Visit to Hesse’s head of government

In February 2014 at the latest, Hambach brought the former Schleswig-Holstein Prime Minister Carstensen to Wirecard as a lobbyist. Together with a Wirecard board member, Burkhard Ley, Carstensen and Hambach visited the then Prime Minister of Hesse, Volker Bouffier (CDU), in Wiesbaden. In recent years, Hesse has been one of those federal states that have called for a mild treatment of illegal providers.

The Hessian State Chancellery confirmed the appointment on request. Wirecard apparently planned to take on central tasks in payment processing and player protection, said a spokesman. However, these “sovereign activities” are not transferable to private companies, so the conversation was inconsistent.

Hambach also wrote in an e-mail to Wirecard that Carstensen knows the Green Prime Minister of Baden-Württemberg, Winfried Kretschmann, very well. A joint visit, as before in Wiesbaden, is “worthwhile”. With a meeting one could “take the wind out of the sails” of a measure planned at that time to block payment service providers of illegal online casinos, wrote Hambach. The state ministry in Baden-Württemberg left a request unanswered.

Carstensen passed on the cell phone number

The news shows that Carstensen initiated a meeting in 2015 between Hambach, the then Digital Commissioner of the European Union, Günther Oettinger (CDU), and a Wirecard manager in Brussels. In an email, Carstensen passed Oettinger’s cell phone number on to Wirecard board member Burkhard Ley. Upon request, Oettinger stated that he could not remember the exact content and the other participants of the meeting with Carstensen.

When confronted with the e-mails, Carstensen explains that he and Burkhard Ley also met with the then Hamburg mayor and today’s Federal Minister of Finance, Olaf Scholz. The aim of the talks was to exchange ideas about addiction prevention in gambling. Scholz did not answer a short-term inquiry about this. Carstensen also confirmed the meetings with Oettinger and Bouffier, but denied having been paid for by Wirecard or Hambach & Hambach. He “never worked as a lobbyist for Wirecard Bank”.

No comment from the ex-board

Hambach & Hambach only paid the travel and accommodation costs for such appointments. When asked whether he had generally been paid by companies with a connection to the gaming industry after his resignation as Prime Minister, Carstensen said that he generally did not answer questions about his income. In October, the industry newspaper “Capital” reported on Carstensen’s lobbying activities for Wirecard.

Attorney Hambach stated that he was unable to provide any information on mandates due to the duty of confidentiality. In principle, however, it is common for companies to seek external advice on legal issues. One cooperates with Carstensen “in individual matters”. The former Wirecard board member Burkhard Ley did not comment on the events. Burkhard  Ley left the Wirecard Group as a member of the Management Board in 2018, but continued to work as a consultant for the group, including on the subject of gaming. The public prosecutor’s office is investigating Burkhard Ley in connection with the Wirecard bankruptcy and even had him temporarily taken into custody last year.

Wirecard also worked closely with the agency of the former First Mayor of Hamburg, Ole von Beust, the Von Beust & Coll Company. The emails show that von Beust’s company and Wirecard renewed their consulting contract in November 2019. Accordingly, the agency was given the task of establishing contacts “cautiously and purposefully”.

It is a matter of “identifying politicians” who are “open-minded and can be activated” for concerns of German banks when it comes to online gambling, according to a contract from 2019. Wirecard initially paid 5,000 euros per month for the advisory services, later 7,500 euros – plus “reasonable travel expenses”. Von Beust had basically confirmed this as a witness in the Wirecard investigative committee.

Continue Reading

Trending Now

Free counters!