March 26, 2023


Moving Forward

The high-living entrepreneur brought low by his links to Wirecard

Following a long time of hiding from general public sight, a tough-partying Englishman alleged to be central to the Wirecard fraud is about to be pressured into the limelight by a legal situation in Singapore.

James Henry O’Sullivan’s name is presently acquainted from the trial of previous Wirecard executives having put on the other aspect of the entire world. While he has not been billed in Germany, prosecutors in the Munich trial examining 1 of Europe’s greatest accounting frauds allege organizations O’Sullivan managed extracted hundreds of hundreds of thousands of euros from the payments group just before it crashed into insolvency in June 2020.

In Singapore, the 48-12 months-outdated faces costs of abetting the falsification of documents, which include papers that helped persuade Wirecard’s auditors at EY that the corporation experienced considerable dollars reserves right until it was compelled to announce that €1.9bn recorded in its accounts did not exist.

If convicted in the trial, which is scheduled for July, O’Sullivan faces up to a decade in jail. It is a bleak prospect for a male who lived the high daily life in an arc that mirrored the fortunes of the business where by he was an adviser, and near confidant of Jan Marsalek, Wirecard’s fugitive next-in-command.

In Monaco in the noughties, O’Sullivan did organization from his yacht, facilitating payments for on the internet gambling teams that place his enterprise on the radar of US prosecutors investigating potential funds laundering by Wirecard for its customers.

In 2015, the Jap District of New York courtroom examined alleged “transaction laundering” by Wirecard, with payments for on the web gambling miscoded as other varieties of commerce. No prosecutions resulted.

Later on, throughout a drunken weekend of pheasant taking pictures in Yorkshire, O’Sullivan is said to have boasted that he was thrown out of Monaco and could not journey to the US. A fellow visitor dubbed him “the rudest person I have ever met”.

James Henry O’Sullivan, left, and Jan Marsalek

His vocation as a Wirecard business spouse took him to Asia as it expanded with a series of suspicious takeovers. In India, doing work carefully with Marsalek, O’Sullivan masterminded in 2015 the group’s largest and most controversial deal, earning hundreds of millions of euros for meant buyers in Singapore.

Flush with dollars, he moved to Singapore in 2016 as Wirecard entered a final phase, where it commenced to inflate its reported gross sales and profits by proclaiming it was paid out massive commissions by a few outsourcing associates. This is the period of time in concentration for German prosecutors who have described O’Sullivan as a central actor in the fraud.

In charges in opposition to previous Wirecard main government Markus Braun and two other senior executives, prosecutors allege that O’Sullivan controlled an opaque network of firms in Singapore, the Isle of Male and Lithuania that ended up used to inflate Wirecard’s income and income, and to siphon off much more than €200mn in fraudulent financial loans.

According to prosecutors, some of that dollars found its way back again to Marsalek and Braun via firms managed by O’Sullivan. But his absence from the demo in Germany has complicated attempts to get to the bottom of specifically what happened.

Just after he was arrested in Singapore in 2021 and launched on S$150,000 bail, authorities there passed on his testimony to their German counterparts. This has not been shared with the courtroom in Munich, prompting Braun’s defence attorney to accuse German prosecutors of withholding information and facts.

On the other hand, Singapore officials told the Monetary Moments that it would be illegal less than the country’s regulations to use the testimony in international court proceedings. They extra that Munich prosecutors experienced not built any extradition requests.

This suggests the 5 judges weighing proof in the highly advanced German demo lack testimony from a few central protagonists. Marsalek is considered to be hiding in Russia a suspect who ran a lover business enterprise in Manila was reported dead soon right after Wirecard’s collapse and O’Sullivan remains in Singapore.

The Munich court and criminal prosecutors declined to remark. Legal professionals for O’Sullivan said they had been unable to respond since they had not been instructed to do so.

The invisible Englishman

In some circles he went by Henry, in others James. When accountants from KPMG tried using to job interview O’Sullivan for their particular audit of Wirecard in the months just before its collapse, he requested to be saved out of any records if he did so, and Wirecard then recommended that he must be identified as “Corinna Müller” if he did. In the conclude, he did not.

O’Sullivan was by that position nicely practised at shielding his company pursuits from the community eye, utilizing levels of shell providers that had been frequently registered in other people’s names.

Most vital of these to Wirecard was Singapore-based mostly Senjo Group. It was one of a few Asian outsourcing companions claimed by Wirecard as creating fifty percent of its income and all of its functioning income from 2016 onwards, arrangements that prosecutors say ended up a fiction.

James Henry O’Sullivan, Jan Marsalek and others working at a conference table
James Henry O’Sullivan and Jan Marsalek at operate following Wirecard’s India deal was struck

On paper Senjo was controlled by two other men and women. In observe senior Wirecard employees recognized O’Sullivan identified as the pictures. Both Braun and Oliver Bellenhaus, the former head of a Wirecard subsidiary who is also on demo but has turned main witness, told the Munich court that O’Sullivan was “in control” of Senjo.

“His role was crystal clear to every person and did not want to be mentioned,” Bellenhaus reported.

According to inside conversation from the time that was reviewed by the FT, O’Sullivan was already “a very long time Wirecard small business spouse which we are co-functioning with in different fields” by 2014. In his Monaco days, he used an F1 race weekend entertaining Wirecard’s then main economical officer, Burkhard Ley.

Marsalek was a far more recurrent drinking companion, traveling to Mozambique with his girlfriend and two other senior Wirecard administrators to celebrate O’Sullivan’s 40th birthday in November 2014. It was a ordinarily lavish affair, having about the $950-per-evening Azura vacation resort on Mozambique’s Benguerra Island for a extensive weekend.

When it came to business, Wirecard aided O’Sullivan with financial loans: $13mn for an experiment in crude oil investing, and €11mn for a corporation making an attempt to offer you cellular payments products and services to merchants in India.

Munich prosecutors also assert that O’Sullivan controlled Ocap and Ruprecht, two Singapore-based mostly businesses that gained more than €250mn in payments from Wirecard, the bulk of it just months before the organization collapsed. Prosecutors allege these payments were not for genuine company functions.

James Henry O’Sullivan and  Jan Marsalek in India
James Henry O’Sullivan, ideal, and Jan Marsalek in India

Some of the cash was channelled back again to Marsalek and Braun by a Lithuania-based mostly payments firm Finolita, prosecutors allege. Finolita was owned by Senjo and till 2021 had an e-dollars licence from the Lithuanian central financial institution. The licence was revoked after the FT noted prosecutor suspicions that the company was utilised to loot Wirecard months prior to it collapsed.

Braun, who denies all the charges and promises he was a victim of his protégé Marsalek, explained to the Munich judges that he experienced “no romantic relationship whatsoever” with O’Sullivan, introducing that he remembers shaking his hand two times: as soon as at Oktoberfest and at the time at a distinctive corporate occasion.

Indian payday

Marsalek and O’Sullivan’s closest collaboration was Wirecard’s most expensive and controversial M&A transaction, the €340mn invest in of three Indian payments providers announced in October 2015.

Wirecard purchased the firms from an opaque Mauritius-dependent fund that experienced acquired them just months before for a portion of the price tag. In subsequent inner and exterior investigations, Wirecard stated it did not know who controlled the fund.

In accordance to whistleblowers and files reviewed by the FT, it was O’Sullivan who pulled the strings. He oversaw the Mauritius fund and masterminded its dealmaking with Marsalek.

In messages, O’Sullivan inspired and cajoled his crew at the fund, conscious of the “storyline” and “attempting to hold our heads under the parapet”.

The India offer was so critical that he cancelled a looking weekend in Northumberland with Marsalek and many others, writing: “there are incredibly handful of issues that would bring about me to skip shooting (and paying out time with these a good group of pals and spouse and children) but I dread I ought to accept my obligation and glimpse to do twice as considerably shooting upcoming year”.

With the transaction finish, he moved to Singapore. He and Marsalek shared company interests, tailors and preferences in extravagant wines. For a even though they equally sported substantial beards, and boasted of investments in Libyan cement crops, buddies and associates stated, although cash from the Mauritius fund compensated for Marsalek’s own electricity foundation in Munich: a palace reverse the Russian consulate.

Marsalek finally vanished but O’Sullivan settled in Singapore with a white Rolls-Royce and a shark-crammed aquarium at his household in a non-public gated group. When a US reporter knocked on the door in 2019, he termed the law enforcement.

The trial this year will lastly cast a gentle on his life and way of carrying out small business. The obstacle of trying to get to the real truth about O’Sullivan, warned one buddy, is that he is so much enjoyable that stories about him experienced to be taken with a pinch of salt.

The buddy recounted just one memory, of the time O’Sullivan swaggered into a Mayfair lodge bar and slapped down a thick wad of £50 notes with a cry that now would seem prophetic: “game’s about losers, I have all the money”.