Something for the weekend: Win a signed copy of Money Men!

In June 2020, German payments company Wirecard collapsed into insolvency amid allegations of fraud. FT journalist Dan McCrum and his editor, Paul Murphy, were contributed to its downfall.

Their story is told in the Netflix documentary Scandal! and the book of Dan Money Men: A hot start-up, a billion-dollar fraud, a fight for the truth. Both are full of juicy tales of clandestine meetings, corporate secrets and journalistic bravery. But behind the scenes things were more human: “You click publish and you almost throw up,” Dan tells FT Edit of the publication of his award-winning survey.

Every time a new Wirecard story went live on, the FT’s editorial aides braced themselves for a volley of abusive emails claiming the paper had it all wrong.

Dan received a message suggesting he was challenging Wirecard boss Markus Braun to a duel. And Paul received £500 worth of red roses from a former Libyan spy chief after he published an article on its links with the payment company. Pinned to the bouquet was the order form, which stated that the flowers should be “slightly prickly”.

FT Edit has rounded up some of the best stories from the Wirecard saga that didn’t make the cut. We also got our hands on a copy of silver men signed by Dan, which you can win by answering this question:

In one sentence, how would you describe FT Edit to a friend or family member?

Send your responses to [email protected] by 5 p.m. on Wednesday, November 23.

A picture of Skandal! with Dan McCrum

The reluctant whistleblower. . . and his mom

By the end of 2018, despite rumors that something was wrong, Wirecard was climbing the ranks of Europe’s most valuable tech companies.

The FT had been sniffing around the company for several years, but nothing seemed to stick. Then, in October 2018, the FT was contacted about irregularities in Wirecard’s Asia division by a whistleblower – or rather his mother.

The whistleblower was Pav Gill, a Wirecard lawyer who was kicked out after approving an internal fraud investigation. But it was Gill’s mother, Sokhbir Kaur, who approached the FT and persuaded Gill to speak to the newspaper.

“I was just trying to look for another job, and she was busy trying to find ways to expose the business from my couch in the living room,” he said. When she arranged a first meeting with the FT at Changi Airport, Gill remembers thinking, “Oh my god, what have you done now?”

His revelations would start the series of stories that would lead to Wirecard’s collapse two years later.

Pav Gill and his mother Sokhbir Kaur

The ladies who had lunch (with hidden cameras)

A key player in the story is Jan Marsalek, chief operating officer of Wirecard with alleged ties to Russian intelligence. In 2018, Paul met him for lunch in London.

The Netflix documentary features footage of this meeting. But how was it taken? It almost wasn’t.

Paul had been told by an intermediary that lunch was booked at the Dorchester in central London, and had arranged for three undercover journalists to wait for him: Sarah O’Connor and Cynthia O’Murchu, from the team of FT investigation, and trainee journalist. Camilla Hodgson.

But a last-minute change of plans meant Paul found himself a few doors down from the Cut restaurant at 45 Park Lane. Leaving the cab, Paul had seconds to text the three reporters his new location, typing in “45” and hoping they would understand.

“We were like, what does this mean?” Sarah remembers. “I think it was Camilla who figured it out.” They rushed to 45 Park Lane just in time to tape the meeting – and forced a second expensive lunch.

The long-suffering lawyer

FT in-house lawyer Nigel Hanson is an unsung hero of the investigation. He worked with Dan and Paul every step of the way to ensure the newspaper was able to publish their stories.

“There was a lot of jousting and boxing,” Nigel says of his years fending off legal threats from Wirecard. “It was always as if Wirecard was telling its lawyers to [score] points, rather than pulling the trigger.

As Wirecard began to unravel, the unlikely detail that sticks in Nigel’s memory is former FT editor Lionel Barber’s unusual choice of footwear: a pair of cowboy boots he liked to lay on the table – a sign, Nigel said, of how much he appreciated the FT’s success in bringing down Wirecard.

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Our favorite thing of the week…

Western security agencies rank North Korea among the most sophisticated cyber threats in the world. In the first nine months of 2022, the state stole at least $1 billion worth of crypto. Of How North Korea Became a Crypto Cybercrime Mastermind

something to listen to

Behind the money — Find out how one of the biggest crypto exchanges collapsed and what it could mean for the future of digital currencies.

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Work – Hear some tips for spotting and retaining talent for the workplace, including why you might not want to hire the smartest person in the room.

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FT Weekend Podcast — Audio Technician Who Helped Prince Create Iconic ‘Purple Rain’ Sound Explains Why Catchy Songs Get Stuck In Our Heads

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something to watch

If you’re just catching up on Wirecard’s crazy story, here’s a quick breakdown of the story from the reporter who broke the story, Dan McCrum.

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