A former business associate of ex-Wirecard executive Jan Marsalek has become the first person to be charged by German prosecutors over the multibillion-euro fraud at the once high-flying payments company.
Munich prosecutors said in a statement on Thursday that they had on December 21 charged a man with 26 counts of money laundering. It is alleged he participated in a scheme with Marsalek to launder €22m of embezzled Wirecard funds.
Marsalek, who is accused of orchestrating the years-long fraud and the theft of as much as a billion euros, has not been seen since the fintech crashed into insolvency after admitting that €1.9bn of cash and half of its revenues did not exist.
The charges against a minor player in Marsalek’s orbit highlight the challenge of prosecuting perpetrators of one of Germany’s largest accounting frauds, in a case in which a number of Wirecard’s former executives and auditors remain under investigation.
Prosecutors have said they aim to bring charges against Markus Braun, the former chief executive and largest shareholder in the failed group, by the end of March. Braun, in custody for 18 months, has said he was a victim of Marsalek, his former protégé, and intends to prove his innocence.
A lawyer for Marsalek declined to comment.
The individual charged last month is accused of “deliberate money laundering in combination with aggravated fraud and deliberate violation of accounting duties”, prosecutors said. He has not been named, has previously denied wrongdoing, and his lawyer declined to comment.
He is alleged to have participated in a scheme with Marsalek and a man prosecutors named as Rami El O, who is also under investigation, to embezzle and launder assets of Wirecard worth at least €22m by investing in German start-ups.
The charged man is also accused by prosecutors of misappropriating at least €8m of embezzled funds from Rami El O and Marsalek.
“The defendant is accused of buying and renovating private real estate and to have founded and funded his own family offices in Switzerland,” prosecutors said.
The indictment follows charges in Singapore filed last year against two men accused of falsifying documents which purported to show hundreds of millions of euros held in bank accounts on behalf of Wirecard.
The documents were part of a scheme in which Wirecard claimed half of its revenues came from arrangements with obscure payment processing companies based in Singapore, Dubai and the Philippines.
This story has been updated to correct the date of the indictment.