An Austrian lawyer has filed a criminal complaint against Wirecard’s former chief executive Markus Braun and chief operating officer Jan Marsalek at a court in Vienna, accusing them of market manipulation and serious fraud.
The Vienna prosecutors’ office confirmed on Tuesday that it received the claim, which was first reported by Austrian newspaper Der Standard.
The lawyer, Joerg Zarbl, told Reuters on Tuesday that Mr. Braun took out a €120-million (about $183-million) loan to buy at least 2.5 million Wirecard shares through a holding company in May after a critical audit by KPMG sent its shares crashing in late April.
Mr. Braun’s stock buys helped Wirecard’s shares recover, Mr. Zarbl said. He wants prosecutors to investigate whether Mr. Braun’s intention was to send positive signals to the market. “There is a suspicion of market manipulation here.”
Wirecard was once one of the hottest fintech firms in Europe with a market value of US$28-billion at its peak. It filed for insolvency on Thursday owing creditors nearly US$4-billion. Its auditor EY said a massive hole in its accounts was the result of an elaborate and sophisticated global fraud.
German prosecutors are already investigating possible criminal offences in connection with the payments firm, as is the Philippine’s anti-money laundering agency.
Mr. Braun was released on bail after being arrested in Munich last week. His lawyer was not immediately available for comment. Mr. Marsalek is missing. His law firm declined to comment.
Wirecard hired KPMG to conduct an independent audit after critical media reports about the financial technology company. KPMG said it was unable to verify €1-billion in cash balances and questioned Wirecard’s acquisition accounting.
The Vienna prosecutors’ office is now checking whether it is the right jurisdiction to receive the claim against the German company, a spokesman said.
Mr. Zarbl said he filed the claim in Austria as Mr. Braun and Mr. Marsalek were Austrians and his clients had bought Wirecard shares through Austrian banks.
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