Briton allegedly linked to Wirecard case charged in Singapore with abetting to falsify document

James Henry O'Sullivan purportedly instructed then Citadelle director R Shanmugaratnam to issue a letter to a Wirecard subsidiary. PHOTO: REUTERS

SINGAPORE - A man allegedly linked to a case involving German payments company Wirecard has been charged with one count of abetting to falsify a document.

James Henry O'Sullivan, 46, appeared in a Singapore district court via video link from the Central Police Division on Wednesday (Sept 1).

In March 2017, the Briton allegedly instigated local accounting firm Citadelle Corporate Services' then director R Shanmugaratnam to falsify a document.

According to court documents, O'Sullivan, who was arrested on Monday, purportedly instructed the Singaporean to issue a letter from Citadelle to a Wirecard subsidiary known as Cardsystems Middle East FZ.

The letter is said to have stated that Citadelle held a balance of about €86.4 million (S$137 million) in an escrow account as of Dec 30, 2016 - when, in fact, Citadelle did not maintain such an account.

Escrow is an essential service in capital markets that supports transactions such as mergers and acquisitions.

O'Sullivan's lawyer Tito Isaac on Wednesday asked for his client to be allowed bail, stressing that the Briton had assisted the authorities with investigations.

Mr Isaac said O'Sullivan's ties to Singapore are strong, adding that he and his wife are working here. Their two children are also studying here.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Vincent Ong, however, urged the court to remand him for one more week for further investigations.

He added that if O'Sullivan were not remanded at this stage, there was a "high likelihood" that he might communicate with other people linked to the case, causing "damage" to the investigation.

After hearing both sides, District Judge Tan Jen Tse ordered O'Sullivan to be remanded for one more week at the Central Police Division.

The case has been adjourned to Sept 8.

Meanwhile, Shanmugaratnam's pre-trial conference will be held on Sept 23.

The 55-year-old currently faces 14 charges involving about €1.2 billion.

In an earlier statement, the police said he allegedly issued 14 letters from Citadelle to parent company Wirecard AG, its subsidiaries and an audit firm.

The letters "falsely represented that Citadelle held large sums of money in its escrow accounts at various points in time between 2015 and 2017".

The police noted that "Citadelle actually did not maintain such accounts or did not hold such balances in its accounts".

A search of the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority's database shows that Shanmugaratnam left his position in Citadelle in July this year.

He is still a director of several other firms, including Aeeroworld Aviation, Fullerton Luxury Rentals and Netcom Business Solutions.

Earlier, The Straits Times reported that Wirecard Singapore had been providing payment processing services to about 1,900 companies here before the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) ordered it to stop on Sept 30 last year.

MAS also directed the firm to return all customers' funds within two weeks.

The shutdown of its payment services affected thousands of consumers, who were unable to make online or credit card payments to merchants on Wirecard SG platforms.

Telecommunications firm M1 then had its monthly recurring payment option disrupted. Payment services for other companies, including eateries like Starbucks, were also affected.

Merchants had to make payment arrangements with new service providers.

Wirecard AG filed for insolvency in Germany in June last year after admitting that €1.9 billion in cash was missing from its accounts.

The company's former chief executive, Markus Braun, and several other top executives have been arrested on fraud charges.

For each count of falsifying a document, an offender convicted in a Singapore court can be jailed for up to 10 years and fined.

Those convicted of abetting the offence will face a similar sentence.

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