In March 2020, when Wirecard was trying to convince the world that its business was not based on fraud, George-Alexander Trumper, the company’s chief legal officer, came across what he considered a serious problem.
CEO Marcus Brown and other executives of a German payment company [Wirecard garantissait les règlements en ligne, assurant aux commerçants qu’ils seraient payés] sought a way to avoid recording in their accounts a loan of 100 million euros, provided on questionable terms to a small partner company. For George Alexander Trump, it was illegal. He and his team therefore warned Marcus Brown and other executives that the loan was a breach of their trust.
“I bet champagne will still be at risk.” if he had written to a colleague in an instant message that FinancialTimes was able to read, adding about Marcus Brown: “MB always says he’s still one foot in jail.”
Two years later, after a high-profile scandal that discredited banks, investment funds, regulators, auditors and police, George-Alexander Trumper’s remarks were prophetic.
The facts are punishable by fifteen years in prison
On March 10, prosecutors charged Marcus Brown with fraud, abuse of trust, billing, and market manipulation, which could result in up to 15 years in prison. The circumstances of the loan, of course, must be included in the criminal proceedings. For his lawyers, Marcus Brown is innocent.
Marcus Brown exchanged the life of a billionaire, traveling by private plane from one residence to another between St. Tropez, Kitzbühel [station de ski huppée en Autriche]Vienna and Munich, for the Bavarian prison cell 9m2. Released on bail in June 2020, he was re-arrested in July due to the risk of absconding. During the pandemic, the 53-year-old was not allowed to receive visitors, and was sometimes allowed only two hours of private phone calls a month.
For those who are not Dr. Brown, as his subordinates used to call the CEO, the case may seem settled. In June 2020, Wirecard, valued at 24 billion euros, was insolvent with a debt of more than 3 billion euros. The Austrian, who joined the company in 2002 after joining KPMG and became CEO and largest shareholder, was the head of the payment company, which for years deceived auditors with false documents and fired journalists. [tout particulièrement ceux du Financial Times, qui, le premier, a enquêté sur l’affaire] and critical investors, suppressed internal investigations and fired whistleblowers.
However, if the reason for the collapse of Wirecard is clear – half of the group’s turnover and 1.9 billion euros in cash on its balance sheet were fictitious – the evidence against Marcus Brown is less.
20 investigators, 25 countries, 450 interviews
In Munich, a team of more than 20 judges and police spent twenty-one months analyzing elements of this complex scandal involving dozens of suspects and companies in about 25 countries, including Singapore, the Philippines, Mauritius, Belarus and Russia. German law enforcement agencies conducted 450 interviews with witnesses and suspects, conducted searches of 40 properties and sent 90 requests for cooperation to their foreign counterparts. The indictment against Marcus Brown, which was filed in the regional court without publication, has 474 pages.
However, according to a person close to the prosecution, all these documents would not allow to establish any obvious signs of his guilt. In court, Marcus Brown must claim that he is not the organizer of the fraud, which he also became a victim of.