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Singaporean and Briton claim trial in Wirecard case over allegedly falsified documents

SINGAPORE: Two men linked to collapsed German payments firm Wirecard AG claimed trial in Singapore on Monday (Jul 31) to charges of falsifying documents related to millions held in escrow accounts.

Singaporean R Shanmugaratnam, 57, and Briton James Henry O’Sullivan, 48, denied the charges in a hearing before District Judge Kow Keng Siong in the Singapore State Courts. 

Shanmugaratnam is the director and sole shareholder of Citadelle Corporate Services, a local company providing accounting and auditing services. He was in charge of the company’s operations and was its signatory, with access its OCBC bank accounts. 

He became acquainted with O’Sullivan in 2010 – six years before the alleged offences – when the latter engaged Citadelle to set up companies in Singapore. 

Opening its case on Monday, the prosecution, led by Deputy Public Prosecutor Gordon Oh, said it would proceed on 13 out of 14 charges for Shanmugaratnam and five out of seven charges for O’Sullivan. The remaining charges were stood down for the time being. 

Shanmugaratnam’s charges are for falsifying letters from Citadelle to various parties, including Wirecard AG and its subsidiaries as well as auditors in Germany and Ireland.

The letters stated that large sums of money ranging from €20 million (US$22 million) to €328 million were held by Citadelle in escrow accounts, when in fact these sums did not exist.

In five of the letters, the bank accounts stated did not exist. 

The falsified letters were purportedly prepared between 2016 and 2018. 

O’Sullivan charges are for abetting by instructing Shanmugaratman to issue the letters.  

The prosecution’s case was that Shanmugaratnam prepared the letters wilfully and with intent to defraud – but his lawyer Megan Chia from Tan Rajah and Cheah denied this.

O’Sullivan is represented by lawyer Tito Isaac from Tito Isaac & Co.

The alleged offences occurred against the background of Wirecard’s collapse in Germany. In October 2019, media outlet Financial Times wrote about Wirecard AG’s suspect accounting practices.

Allegations of a concerted effort to fraudulently inflate sales and profits of Wirecard businesses in Dubai and Ireland, in order to potentially mislead Wirecard AG’s auditor, were also surfaced.

Following the report, between October 2019 and April 2020, Wirecard AG appointed KPMG AG in Germany to investigate the allegations. 

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