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Indian lawsuits allege former Wirecard COO played key role in deals later mired in disputes

The suits allege Marsalek took part in negotiations leading to the acquisition of Hermes by a Mauritius-based private equity fund in 2015.

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London/Frankfurt: A pair of Indian lawsuits allege Wirecard AG’s former Chief Operating Officer played a central role in deals that were later mired in disputes over valuations and unpaid fees.

In one of the civil cases, the previous owners of Indian payments company Hermes I-Tickets Private Ltc., are suing former COO Jan Marsalek alongside Wirecard over allegations it made false claims about how much it paid to them at the time. The suit alleges Marsalek took part in negotiations leading to the acquisition of Hermes by a Mauritius-based private equity fund called Emerging Market Investment Fund in 2015.

The second case, for unpaid consultancy fees, is against the Mauritian fund EMIF, which acquired a majority stake in Indian travel firm Goomo Orbit and alleges Marsalek played a central role in negotiating that deal.

A lawyer for Marsalek based in Munich declined to comment on the cases or discuss his client. A Wirecard spokesperson declined to comment. Meanwhile Marsalek’s whereabouts are unknown though authorities in the Philippines say he passed through the country before boarding a flight to China on June 24.

Wirecard was tipped into a full-blown accounting scandal and filed for insolvency with a German court after disclosing last month that 1.9 billion euros ($2.1 billion) were missing from its balance sheet.

The lawsuits offer a glimpse into the complexity of the task facing investigators trying to decipher the finances of a company with divisions and interests across the globe, and establish what role senior management figures played in the events leading up to Wirecard’s insolvency. Wirecard is also under scrutiny by authorities in jurisdictions including Singapore, Germany and the U.K. Meanwhile, Mauritius authorities have started investigating a possible round-tripping case linked to Wirecard, according to a statement by regulators on Wednesday.

The civil cases describe Marsalek as linked to EMIF and allege that the executive was directly involved in negotiations ahead of transactions that have since been questioned by analysts over their opacity and discrepancy of valuations.

Marsalek, was fired in June after Wirecard disclosed about four fifths of its net cash was missing from its balance sheet. There’s no suggestion of any personal responsibility for the shortfall on Marsalek’s part.

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Deal Meetings

EMIF bought Indian travel firm Goomo Orbit in 2015 and its founder Rupen Vikamsey is suing the fund for an advisory fee he says he’s owed for his work after the deal. Marsalek was involved in negotiations between Orbit and EMIF, the lawsuit alleges.

Wirecard has previously said it had no involvement in EMIF until it later bought assets from the fund. Wirecard has never had any direct or indirect relationship with the fund other than negotiating the deal to acquire assets from EMIF, the company said in response to questions raised by online portal the Foundation for Financial Journalism about the Hermes deal.

Vikamsey filed a mediation application in Mumbai in March – a step required in commercial cases before they can be seen by a court – reiterating the claim that he’s owed advisory fees from the EMIF deal.

“I always felt like I was negotiating with Wirecard,” Vikamsey said in a phone interview with Bloomberg News.

The suit — which is pending before a High Court in Mumbai — alleges that Vikamsey and his partner Balasundaram Kumar were not compensated by EMIF for an “advisory services fee” which made the deal financially lucrative and was ultimately the determining factor for them to sell most of Goomo Orbit to the fund.

Since Marsalek’s exit from Wirecard, Vikamsey filed an additional document to the court stating that EMIF was acting as an intermediary for Wirecard to acquire Indian companies. Vikamsey and his partner are not suing Wirecard.

That case follows the suit filed last year in Chennai, India against Wirecard, Marsalek, EMIF and three other defendants that’s centered on a dispute over how much Wirecard paid for Hermes I-Tickets Private Ltd. in a 2015 deal.

Wirecard said in public disclosures it paid more than $300 million for Hermes and invested in a smaller unit. The case was brought by Hermes’s former owners at GI Retail who allege they sold the company for a fraction of the price to EMIF weeks before the Wirecard deal.

The Chennai case alleges Marsalek took part in exchanges that initiated the sale of Hermes to EMIF.

GI Retail’s owners, brothers Ramu and Palaniyapan Ramasamy, were themselves sued in London over the deal by Hermes’s minority shareholders. They said they were compensated based on a purchase price of $40 million and should be paid using the higher valuation. Judges are currently debating whether the case should be heard in Chennai.

Marsalek, meanwhile, remains out of sight. Philippines Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra told Bloomberg News he may have passed through the country last week and government immigration databases show he arrived in Manila on June 23 before departing for China the next day. – Bloomberg

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