(Reuters) – The U.S. Department of Justice is examining whether German payment company Wirecard AG <WDIG.DE> played a critical role in an alleged $100 million bank-fraud conspiracy connected to an online marijuana marketplace, the Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday.
The Manhattan U.S. Attorney’s office and the New York field office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation are examining whether Wirecard played a role in the alleged conspiracy by serving as both a payment processor and an offshore merchant bank, the Journal said, citing people familiar with the matter.
The authorities are also considering the possible role of several former or current top Wirecard executives, according to the WSJ. (https://on.wsj.com/38FTl6V)
A law enforcement official familiar with the department’s Wirecard investigation confirmed the WSJ report, but declined to elaborate.
Wirecard filed for insolvency last month, owing creditors 4 billion euros ($4.5 billion) after disclosing a 1.9 billion euro hole in its accounts that its auditor EY said was the result of a sophisticated global fraud.
Two businessmen have already been charged in the alleged bank fraud, accused of conspiring with third-party payment processors and others to trick U.S. banks into approving credit-card payments for marijuana products, according to the WSJ and documents filed with the Southern District of New York dated April 27.
A Justice Department spokesman declined to comment “at this time.” Representatives for the FBI and Wirecard also declined to comment.
The implosion of Wirecard, a financial technology company once seen as one of the hottest prospects in Europe, has led to political finger-pointing in Germany and new investigations into potential financial skullduggery from the Philippines to Mauritius.
German prosecutors this month widened their investigation into the company to include suspected fraud, in addition to market manipulation and falsifying of accounts.
(Reporting by Shanti S Nair in Bengaluru and Mark Hosenball in Washington; additional reporting by Lawrence Delevingne; Editing by Aditya Soni and Richard Chang)