Wirecard Admits Risk of “Considerable Fraud” as €1.9 Billion Vanishes

The payments company’s shares plummeted after auditors found almost two billion euros unaccounted for.

German fintech start-up Wirecard has temporarily suspended its COO, Jan Marsalek, following revelations on Thursday that its auditors could not locate some €1.9 billion in the company’s accounts.

The DAX 30 company saw its stock price plunge by 60% on Thursday after it confirmed that auditor EY refused to sign off on its accounts for 2019, leading Wirecard to postpone publication of its financial results for the fourth time in 2020.

The delay gives Wirecard’s lenders the opportunity to call in around €2 billion in loans if the company cannot produce the reports by day’s end.

In a video statement released today, Wirecard chief executive Markus Braun sought to clarify the situation. “At present it cannot be ruled out that Wirecard has become the aggrieved party in a case of fraud of considerable proportions,” he said.

Following the announcement of Marsalek’s suspension “on a revocable basis”, the position of COO will be filled by James Freis, effective immediately. Marsalek was already slated to vacate the position to become head of business development.

Wirecard was founded in 1999, currently employs around 6,000 people worldwide and is a member of the Visa and Mastercard networks, in addition to being widely regarded as one of Europe’s most successful fintech start-ups. The figure of €1.9 billion recorded missing by auditors represents a quarter of its balance sheets.

On 5 June, the company’s headquarters was raided by German financial regulator BaFin as part of a market manipulation probe into members of Wirecard’s management board, which was launched based on “misleading signals” from Wirecard during March and April.

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