Wirecard units under probe for falsifying accounts

Two S'pore subsidiaries of German payment firm learnt of this in police raid on premises last week: Court papers

A man walks past a Wirecard booth at an event in Cologne, Germany, on Aug 22, 2018. PHOTO: REUTERS

The Singapore subsidiaries of German digital payment firm Wirecard are being investigated for falsifying accounts, a criminal offence that carries a 10-year jail term.

Executives were told of this aspect of the investigation during a police raid on their premises last week, according to court documents filed on Monday.

The documents, which were lodged by two of the firm's units - Wirecard Asia and Wirecard Singapore - said the police informed them on March 5 that the offences being investigated were under Section 477A of the Penal Code, which refers to the falsification of accounts. A conviction can lead to jail of up to 10 years and fines.

March 5 was the day the Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) raided the financial technology firm's Singapore office.

The police sought to seize the e-mail archives and employment contracts of several staff that day.

The CAD previously raided the premises on Feb 8 and Feb 20.

The court papers were part of Wirecard's attempt to get the High Court to limit the scope of the CAD investigation.

In its filings, Wirecard said it was shocked by CAD's actions on March 5 as it had filed motions against evidence collection by the police. It also called for the evidence to be returned.

This was dismissed by the High Court on Monday owing to the lack of a legal basis for the Wirecard motions.

However, Wirecard may still seek redress through judicial review, which allows the court to evaluate the authorities' decisions.

The documents also showed that several companies, including Wirecard entities in Hong Kong, Malaysia, Indonesia, India and the Philippines, are also now in CAD's crosshairs.

These include Wirecard Hong Kong, Wirecard Payment Solutions Malaysia and Hermes Tickets, a fintech network based in India.

Hermes Tickets and its entities are major e-commerce partners of India's national railways as well as several airlines.

Another 11 companies unrelated to the German fintech firm were also being investigated as "transactional parties", according to court documents.

One of them is Flexi Flex Abrasives, a marine and shipping supplier with offices in Malaysia and Singapore.

The Financial Times (FT) newspaper alleged that around €13 million (S$20 million) was transacted between four Wirecard subsidiaries and Flexi Flex in 2017 and last year.

But a Flexi Flex director later told the paper that he had not heard of, or worked with, Wirecard.

Wirecard has said it would sue the FT over the reports.

German financial regulator BaFin has also commenced an investigation into an FT journalist, suspecting market manipulation.

The documents also named at least six executives as suspects in the investigation.

The six include Mr Edo Kurniawan, Wirecard Asia's director and vice-president, who was also identified by the FT in a series of articles last month as the key executive behind an alleged scheme to pad the books.

Wirecard told investigators that it has not been able to contact Mr Kurniawan since Feb 9.

The Straits Times has reached out to Mr Kurniawan for comment.

The police declined comment as investigations are ongoing.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 13, 2019, with the headline Wirecard units under probe for falsifying accounts. Subscribe