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Banks

German prosecutors arrest head of Wirecard's Dubai unit

BERLIN/FRANKFURT (Reuters) - German prosecutors said on Monday they had arrested the head of a Dubai-based subsidiary of Wirecard, widening the circle of suspects in a multi-billion-dollar fraud investigation into the collapse of the payments company.

FILE PHOTO: The logo of Wirecard AG, an independent provider of outsourcing and white label solutions for electronic payment transactions, is pictured at its headquarters in Aschheim, near Munich, Germany, July 1, 2020. REUTERS/Andreas Gebert/File Photo

The Munich prosecutor’s office said in a statement it had questioned the chief executive of Cardsystems Middle East FZ-LLC earlier in the day and arrested him on the basis of a warrant.

The executive had travelled from Dubai and turned himself in, prosecutors said, without naming him. Unless defendants are publicly well known, their identity can be protected under German law to avoid prejudicing legal proceedings.

The arrest was made on suspicion of conspiracy to commit fraud, attempted fraud and aiding and abetting other crimes, prosecutors said. They said there was a risk that he would flee or tamper with evidence.

Wirecard filed for insolvency last month owing creditors 4 billion euros ($4.5 billion) after disclosing a 1.9 billion euro hole in its accounts that its auditor EY said was the result of a sophisticated global fraud.

Investigative journalists and speculators had long highlighted Wirecard’s reliance on an obscure trio of third-party acquiring partners - one of which was Cardsystems - to generate the bulk of its reported revenue and profit.

Wirecard’s creditor committee was meanwhile set to convene for the first time on Tuesday, people close to the matter said.

INVESTIGATION GATHERS PACE

The latest arrest came after police and public prosecutors raided Wirecard’s headquarters in Munich and four properties in Germany and Austria last Wednesday as they widened their investigation.

Prosecutors have said they are investigating Wirecard’s Chief Financial Officer Alexander von Knoop and Chief Product Officer Susanne Steidl, in addition to former Chief Executive Markus Braun and chief operating officer Jan Marsalek.

Wirecard did not immediately respond to a Reuters request to comment on behalf of von Knoop and Steidl.

Braun has been released after posting 5 million euros bail. Marsalek’s whereabouts are unknown and his lawyer is declining requests for comment.

Creditors will convene on Tuesday to discuss the latest on the fraud investigation, as well as planned asset sales with which insolvency administrator Michael Jaffe hopes to recoup at least a fraction of the money owed, people close to the matter said.

One of the people said that Jaffe was likely to raise only about 400-500 million euros for Wirecard’s assets, including about 100 million euros for its banking unit. That works out at at about 10% of the total they are owed.

Wirecard’s lenders will be represented by ING and German regional bank LBBW, while bondholders will be represented by a law firm appointed by Cyrus Capital, people close to the matter said. Holders of other securities have named German law firm Tilp to the creditor committee, while employees will also be represented, the people said.

The members of the creditor committee declined to comment or were not immediately available for comment.

Reporting by Douglas Busvine, Joern Poltz, Alexander Huebner and Arno Schuetze; Editing by Arno Schuetze/ Edward Taylor/Jane Merriman

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