Wirecard told judicial review is legal route for move against CAD

Singapore

TWO subsidiaries of German digital payments firm Wirecard have failed in their criminal motions on Monday after the High Court said that such applications to get the Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) to limit the seizure of documents should be made under another legal procedure - judicial review.

And it was revealed during the hearing that Wirecard Asia's vice-president and director Edo Kurniawan has reportedly gone missing since Feb 9 - a day after Singapore's white-collar crime-buster raided Wirecard Asia and Wirecard Singapore offices here.

In the criminal motions which named the CAD director as respondent, Wirecard Singapore and Wirecard Asia had asked the High Court to restrict the police's orders for documents to only what have been alleged in The Financial Times (FT) reports as well as be precise and specific in the documents required.

The British newspaper published a total of four news articles between Jan 30 and Feb 4, alleging that a preliminary report prepared by a Singapore law firm commissioned by the Germany-listed Wirecard AG had identified potential offences including forgery and falsification of accounts by employees based in Singapore.

The two Wirecard entities represented by Daniel Chia of Coleman Street Chambers criticised in the hearing on Monday that the CAD's orders to Wirecard entities were "too wide" and "failed to precisely and specifically enumerate the documents or items sought to be produced or seized".

Mr Chia said the authorities' actions amounted to a fishing expedition.

However, both motions were dismissed. Justice Chua Lee Ming accepted the prosecution's submissions that the legal route for such applications is judicial review.

A judicial review may be requested to evaluate the decisions of public authorities, but the party seeking the review must first get leave - or permission - from the court before the review can be convened. The case will be thrown out if leave is not granted.

Despite dismissing the motions, Justice Chua noted that the production of "all documents" by Wirecard is not justified.

"Unless strong grounds can be given that a production order for all documents is somehow necessary, and I am saying that is an exceptional case, the production order cannot just refer to 'any items relevant' to the investigation."

The prosecution's submissions have provided a glimpse of CAD's investigations into the Wirecard group of entities and its transactional parties.

The probe is looking at "several arrestable offences" involving forgeries, falsified documents, money laundering and the "round-tripping" of funds to support false transactions that were believed to have taken place between 2014 and 2018, according to the prosecution's submissions.

Six entities in the region and 11 transactional parties are now in CAD's crosshairs.

And at least six officers of Wirecard, including Mr Kurniawan, "were suspected to be concerned in the arrestable offences".

CAD was told during its operation that the two Wirecard entities had lost contact with Mr Kurniawan since Feb 9.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Gordon Oh in Monday's hearing objected to Wirecard's requests to restrict CAD's investigations to the subject matter of the FT articles. He said that the applications revealed Wirecard's agenda of "interfering with a legitimate investigation and stifling the exercise of police powers".

Mr Chia told The Business Times that he needs to take his clients' instructions on whether or not to file a judicial review.