Posted on: May 18, 2021, 03:29h.
Last updated on: May 18, 2021, 03:29h.
German prosecutors believe Finolita, a Lithuanian payments processor with links to the online gaming space, helped siphon $100 million out of fallen fintech giant Wirecard prior to its dramatic collapse last year.
According to The Financial Times, authorities suspect that a portion of a €100 million ($122 million) loan sent by Wirecard in March 2020 to a subsidiary of Finolita’s parent company, Singapore-based payments group Senjo, was transferred to Wirecard’s fugitive former COO, Jan Marsalek.
Marsalek disappeared in June 2020, as the false accounting scandal that brought down Wirecard began to unfold. The Austrian-born former executive, believed to have links to Russian intelligence, is now one of the world’s most wanted men.
Investigative journalism site Bellingcat has found evidence that flight information and immigration records that indicated Marsalek flew to China via the Philippines after fleeing were forged and that he is actually hiding out in Minsk, the capital of Belarus.
€1.9 Billion ‘Never Existed’
Until recently, Wirecard was the leading fintech company in Germany with a market cap of more than €22 billion ($25 billion). It was also a major player in the online gambling payments space.
But an Ernst and Young audit last June found €1.9 billion ($2.2 billion) was “missing” from the company accounts. Wirecard execs ultimately admitted that the €1.9 billion never existed and that accounts had been faked to artificially balloon the company’s assets and sales.
Three board members were arrested for defrauding investors on massive scale, including CEO Markus Braun.
Within days, Wirecard declared insolvency, but prosecutors suspect hundreds of millions of euros were spirited away prior to insolvency proceedings. Now they believe at least some of that was handled by Finolita and its parent Senjo, which was one of Wirecard’s outsourcing partners in Asia.
€65 Million Missing
Investigators following the money trail believe that of the €100 million processed by Finolita, Marsalek forwarded €35 million ($43 million) to Braun, as a loan repayment. Braun used the money to repay a loan he himself had borrowed in early 2020 from Wirecard Bank. The remaining €65 million ($79 million) is unaccounted for.
Finolita was founded in 2013 and acquired by the Senjo Group in 2017, according to documents seen by the FT. On its LinkedIn page, it describes itself as a “one-stop solution for merchants to receive banking services” and that “high-risk (of fraud) clients,” such as gambling companies can “join us anytime, anywhere.”
The Bank of Lithuania, which licenses Finolita to provide banking services, told the FT it was closely monitoring the situation. Authorities in Singapore confirmed they had launched an investigation into the Senjo Group but declined to comment further.