Suspected money laundering at Wirecard: The crook was celebrated with “Fucking Hell”

US NEWS

A German has to go to prison in the USA for gang-style bank fraud. He helped sell light drugs through bogus online stores. Apparently the ex-Wirecard manager Jan Marsalek, who was sought after worldwide, was involved. Has dirty money been cleaned up too?

After a short chat about personal well-being, it was immediately about business. “I still have some large customers who are constantly looking for new solutions,” said “CS”, which in the transcript of the secretly recorded phone call stands for “Confidential Source”. According to the transcript, which is available to ntv.de, the conversation also revolved around revelations by the British “Financial Times” (FT) about the machinations at Wirecard and the assistance of the Austrian Jan Marsalek, who is wanted worldwide as a puller in the gigantic accounting scandal.

CS, an American, wanted to know how things were going with Wirecard. His interlocutor in Europe, the German Ruben Weigand, had no idea that US investigators were on his counterpart and spoke free of suspicion. He rated the situation as “pretty good” as the share price was recovering. “The FT got what they wanted. I think they ran out of powder.” According to a report in the newspaper, the German financial regulator Bafin banned bets on falling prices for the company for two months in spring 2019. The authority – like the Munich public prosecutor – believed the story spread by Wirecard that journalists from “FT” and Bloomberg had made a pact with London stock traders against the then Dax group.

The conversation between the American and Weigand must have taken place at that time. It provides another indication of how much the Bafin Marsalek ate out of hand. CS wanted to know: “And Jan survived the storm?” Weigand replied, without naming the Austrian, that everything was going well. “They had to get involved in the – what’s that called? – short sales of their shares …” CS threw in “exactly” before the German continued: “You got the Bafin to initiate investigations against people.” Obviously impressed, CS declared: “Fucking hell!”

In fact, the Bafin filed a criminal complaint against the “FT” reporter Dan McCrum at the time. The Munich public prosecutor’s office investigated him for over a year before the proceedings were closed. The ban on betting against Wirecard had an effect: it signaled to investors that the “FT” was wrong. Weigand said, “It’s crazy.” CS agreed and explained to the Wirecard management: “You’re a bit bulletproof, aren’t you? That’s completely crazy.” The German replied in the affirmative: “It’s impressive.”

Dubious trade

The minutes are part of the evidence of the investigators in a New York trial against Weigand and the US citizen Hamid Ray Akhavan, in which the investigator’s “secret source” appeared as a key witness. Both defendants were convicted of bank fraud in late March. The sentence will be announced on June 25th. According to a statement from the public prosecutor’s office, they had “developed a complex system” to cover up drug deals. They sold marijuana products such as hashish cookies or ready-made joints for more than 150 million US dollars and handled the deals through American banks and credit card operators. The trick: they declared the goods as “dog products, diving equipment, carbonated drinks, green tea and face creams” according to the indictment.

One of the payment service providers involved in the dubious trade was Wirecard. Akhavan is said to have a deep friendship with Marsalek. Another Wirecard manager campaigned for Weigand to be bailed out of prison after his arrest at Los Angeles Airport in March 2020. After depositing almost $ 3.5 million, he is allowed to stay – electronically monitored – in his New York rented apartment. Akhavan and the 38-year-old have denied the fraud allegation as no one has suffered financial damage.

WhatsApp messages from the defendants and the key witness also give evidence that Marsalek was directly involved. The “Business Insider” portal reported: “The chat logs provide insights into the attempts of the group to dock the online shops of their front companies with the payment service providers.” Akhavan was once annoyed because three websites had failed the inspection: “All three of our applications triggered alarm signals, so we are totally screwed.” Akhavan later said in the group of three: “Jan suggested that we do Nutra pages”. Nutraceuticals include herbal remedies and dietary supplements.

The court spoke of a “complex white-collar crime case” with numerous ramifications. He is likely to lead to further investigations in the USA, probably also because of money laundering, and interest the Munich public prosecutor, who has various ex-Wirecard managers on the grain. In this country too, the accusation is gang-like fraud. A prosecutor’s spokeswoman made no statement as to whether the US files would be requested as she never commented on requests for legal assistance. “We continue to investigate openly in all directions, not limited to certain offenses,” she said on the question of whether it was also about money laundering.

2000 suspicious transaction reports

The suspicion has been in the room for months that Wirecard not only cost investors millions, but also served to legalize money from dirty business. The FIU, the federal anti-money laundering unit located at customs, came across more than 2000 suspicious transaction reports relating to Wirecard in its databases in 2020. The British Times reported last summer that Mastercard had been warned in 2016 of “Wirecard’s connections to a suspected money laundering network”.

The MP Fabio De Masi, who represents the left in the Bundestag committee investigating the scandal, had already sounded the alarm in May 2019 – more than a year before the group was declared bankrupt. “Of course, the financial supervisory authority Bafin has to investigate suspected cases of market manipulation. But the allegations of money laundering must also be examined seriously,” he said at the time.

The New York investigation confirms his suspicions once again. The left-wing politician has two theories: Due to stricter rules of online gambling in the USA and the extreme increase in free porn on the Internet, Wirecard has broken its business model. “You have started to inflate the balance sheet in order to keep the ruble rolling with acquisitive crime,” he told the “Berliner Zeitung”.

De Masi believes variant two is more likely: According to this, Wirecard did business with organized crime “early on”. “Gambling is ideal for money laundering, that’s what attracts the mafia.” Wirecard – which is reminiscent of the New York case – processed income from online gambling through flower shops, for example. “I’ve heard from people who are well versed in organized crime in Latin America, for example, that Wirecard was a well-known address.”

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