Wirecard Exec Who Ran Unit At Heart Of Scandal In Custody In Munich

Wirecard executive Oliver Bellenhaus, 46, has been arrested in Munich for his alleged central role in the massive worldwide fraud case currently enveloping the company, the Financial Times (FT) reported.

Bellenhaus was in charge of Wirecard’s CardSystems Middle East and ran that division primarily from his apartment in Dubai’s Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building, FT reported. CardSystems was the largest individual unit under Wirecard, bringing in around a quarter of its revenue worldwide.

Around half of the $2 billion in missing money at the center of Wirecard’s troubles was in two accounts under CardSystems’ purview, FT reported.

The arrest of Bellenhaus is the second to be made in the scandal after that of CEO Markus Braun, who was later released on bail. Bellenhaus will remain in police custody, having been deemed a flight risk, and investigators fear he would tamper with evidence, FT reported.

For years, Wirecard told auditors Ernst & Young (EY) that CardSystems was a “lucrative” business that outsourced payments processing to external partners. According to documents seen by FT, Wirecard’s former second-in-command Jan Marsalek and Bellenhaus briefed KPMG about the arrangements with third parties during a special audit with EY, FT reported.

In addition, Marsalek has not been located, and his whereabouts are currently unknown, according to FT. Prosecutors are also investigating other suspects who could not be named as of Monday (July 6).

The scandal has been unfurling over the past few weeks as it came to light that Wirecard had possibly cooked its books and was missing $2 billion that may not even exist.

The company said the money had been deposited in Philippines banks, but an investigation did not turn up any such deposits.

Since then, the company has lost much of the clout it amassed over the past several years as a shining star of the European tech scene. The scandal has also touched auditors and regulators who reportedly knew to some extent about the misused funds but allegedly did nothing about it for years.

A recent audit found that the company had been losing money for years, far worse than what was previously known, with losses masked by profits attributed to outsourced activities in Asia, PYMNTS reported.

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Sarim Pixako