Wirecard: Dan McCrum is the man who brought down Wirecard

Journalist Dan Makram started the scandal. The journalist searched with all odds. In the meantime, he himself ended up in the spotlight of detectives – and he didn’t just have to fear for his reputation.

The day Dan Makram celebrates the biggest success of his career seems out of sight from the outside. The British financial journalist sits in his office, June 18, 2020, the height of the Corona pandemic, with many people living only at home. Makram keeps updating the news pages this morning and talks with his colleague in Frankfurt. The two men are waiting. To the message that nothing will ever be the same again.

At 9.43 UK time, it’s time. Crucial sentences come from the news ticker. And a little later, a number: 1.9 billion euros – this is the amount of money missing from the balance sheet of the Munich-based financial service provider Wirecard. It’s the end of a former stock market that was surging in price: the stock price drops rapidly, and soon Dax has to file for bankruptcy. It’s the biggest financial scandal in modern German history, and an almost incredible tale of greed, power and deceit, which has since been made into documentaries, soundtracks, and a feature film. Wadan Makram, the financial timesA journalist from London, is the man who was exposed to this scandal – and in the meantime he himself became the focus of the investigators.

Wirecard logo at the former headquarters of the scandalous company.

Photo: Peter Kneville (file photo)

But at this moment, on this day, all of that is forgotten. At home, he bursts from the workbench into the kitchen, where his wife is having a snack with the children. He later described that moment: “It’s like scoring the winning goal in the Champions League final.”

Dan McCrum is the focus of a Netflix documentary on the Wirecard affair

Two years later, Dan McCram sits on the rooftop terrace in the City of London and says, “An incredible burden was lifted off my shoulder that day in June.” life speaks. He answered the question if one could talk to him about Wirecard in a matter of minutes.

A few days later, McCrum is waiting in the canteen financial times Then it leads you to the rooftop terrace above the Liberation Building. The traditional British newspaper is headquartered in the London financial district, directly opposite the famous St Paul’s Cathedral, whose massive dome is now located behind Macrame. With his black-rimmed glasses, the journalist somewhat reminds us of the young Woody Allen. If one were to cast his role in a film adaptation of the Wirecard scandal, he would probably have been dismissed as an actor: the polite, sometimes slightly embarrassed McCrumm, at first glance, does not conform to the cliché of the ruthless journalist who brought a global corporation to its knees.

Dan McCrum has researched Wirecard’s case for years

But that’s exactly what the journalist did with his colleagues. First with isolated articles – Wirecard’s little pin lies -, later with extensive research that spanned several continents and pushed reporters around McCrum into situations more familiar than a thrilling spy story. Makram wrote a book about this period, House of Wirecard. From Friday onwards, it has also become the focus of an elaborate shot NetflixDocumentation: “Scandal! The Fall of Wirecard.”

A few simple facts show why this scandal broke out and the waves it caused have not subsided for long: Marcus Brown, the former CEO of long-insolvent Wirecard AG, remains in custody. The Munich I public prosecutor has brought charges against him and two senior managers of the former fintech leader. Among other things, due to fraud by commercial gangs. The Special Committee “Secretaries” was set up at the Munich police headquarters to investigate. Soko stored 42 TB of data, and 6.26 GB of accounting data alone.

Marcus Brown, former president of Wirecard, is in custody

All of this is summed up in a 474-page indictment. More than 700 court files have been collected. The Fourth Criminal Chamber of the Munich 1st Regional Court – the presumption of innocence applies – is still considering whether there are sufficient allegations against Brown and his colleagues, that is, whether there will be a trial. At the same time, the prosecutor’s office continues to investigate. For example, Jan Marsalek, Brown’s right-hand assistant, is still on the run. He is on the INTERPOL Red Notice, and is wanted under an international arrest warrant. According to media reports, the man who turned to intelligence is said to be in Moscow with a new identity.

Former CEO of Wirecard, Marcus Brown.

Photo: Fabrizio Bench/Reuters Images Europe/Paul, dpa (file photo)

And all this paints only part of the German part of this brutal affair. Another figure strikingly describes the international dimension: In insolvency proceedings, with insolvency administrator Michael Jaffe, 39,659 claims were registered from around the world against the former payment processor. It is worth about 17 billion euros. Should anyone say that the backbone of journalism and perseverance – and last but not least – enough time to do a thorough and exhaustive research will not pay off.

“Scandal! Traces the rise and fall of Wirecard” group collapse

On the other hand, they have a very different price tag: It was 2014 when McCrum heard this life-changing question from an Australian hedge fund manager: “Would you care about some German gangsters?” But from now on, from his answer “Yes, of course”, many years passed until June 18, 2020, during which he was subjected to tremendous pressure and looked into the abyss of the end of his career.

If you ask McCrum if he’s still paranoid today, he says firmly: “No!” But it wasn’t always this way. Until Wirecard was finished, until it became clear that McCrum was right, a lot of things weren’t right in Wirecard, until the resulting bankruptcy – even then there were stages where he had a hammer under his bed, he noticed he was looking at the phone intently fishy like a bug. And of course he was working in a “hideout” near the newsroom in financial times on his texts. In a room without internet, on an offline computer that hackers can’t access.

As if all this wasn’t violent enough, he also ended up in the crosshairs of the Bavarian Inquisitors. It’s complicated, like anything else about this tangle of scandals: In short, Makram was suspected of market manipulation. Because after the publication of the first “House of Wirecard” articles, the company’s stock price fell. Speculators had previously bet that it would collapse. The detector as a follower of money makers? The Munich I Prosecutor’s Office later closed the investigation. It is one of the most absurd twists in this story. No, it’s not nice when colleagues greet you and ask if you haven’t been caught yet.

Video: dpa Exclusive

Back in the day in June 2020, which also splits Dan McCram’s life in half: one part before the Wirecard crash and the other after. It’s also an honorable rehabilitation day. Proof that he was right from the start. “I think you only realize the pressure you were under when that stress is gone,” the journalist says. Nothing can compare to this moment.

Dan Makram is still writing about Wirecard

He does not regret the hardships he has had to endure up to this point. He couldn’t do anything else. “Sometimes it happens to you as a journalist that a story picks you up. And then you have no choice but to write it.” Of course, there are some lessons to be learned. One of the most important things for a journalist is how difficult it is to change people’s opinions once they are formed. With Wirecard and graduate Marsalek, who was also very cool for McCrum, it was like the fairy tale “The Emperor’s New Clothes” by Hans Christian Andersen: “Everyone could see that the Emperor was without any clothes. But because no one said anything, everyone thought they were wrong. , so no one said anything.” Marsalk, with his personality as charismatic as he is fishy, ​​is like “a cat with nine lives” to him.

Much has changed since the company went bankrupt: the journalist gave countless interviews and won awards. He now talks to reporters from around the world over and over again, telling them his story that has long become one of journalism’s greatest lessons. All this is somewhat inconvenient for a graduate of politics and economics. When you ask him about his new popularity, he laughs at first. “I still think it’s crazy for people to read my book or hear me on a podcast,” he says. It feels unreal — also because everything happened during the pandemic, every award ceremony, and nearly every panel discussion that took place.

What is the biggest change in his life? Then he says, “I think,” “I’ve now reached a point where Wirecard still decides my life – but not in a bad way, but in a good way.”

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