Container Ponzi scheme becomes one of Germany’s largest investment scandals

In Munich a fallen container leasing firm is unravelling to become one of Germany’s largest investment scandals in recent years. P&R Group, once one of the world’s largest container leasors, stands accused of operating a Ponzi scheme. Top management at the firm, which went bust in March, are now under investigation with prosecutors claiming P&R sold nearly one million more shipping containers than it owned.

Based in Grünwald near Munich, P&R sold new and used containers to investors, rented them back and offered to repurchase them after five years for 65% of the original value.

In total, P&R claimed it had sold some 1.6m containers to around 54,000 investors for a total EUR3.5bn euros ($4.12bn).

But a tally made after its German units filed for insolvency earlier this year has shown that P&R only has a fleet of around 600,000 containers, administrator Michael Jaffe said in a statement.

“The discrepancies started more than 10 years ago and need to be cleared up now,” Jaffe said.

Commenting on LinkedIn, Splash columnist Tobias Koenig, the managing director at Lexington Maritime, wrote: “We always thought that PR Containers ran a Ponzi system. But never I thought that it was that bad… incredible.”

Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.
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