More than 80,000 hit by German box leasing Ponzi scheme

The first creditors’ meeting concerning the insolvency of the German shipping container lessor P&R took place in Munich yesterday, in which it emerged the leasor sold around 1m containers that actually did not exist, making the scam one of the largest economic scandals in German post-war history.

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 618,000 containers, administrator Michael Jaffe said in a statement.

The fraud could cause damages of up to EUR2bn

Heinz Roth, founder of P&R, has been in pre-trial confinement since mid-September.

Following the bankruptcy of P&R, investors have filed more than 80,000 claims.

Commenting on LinkedIn earlier this year, 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.


  1. It’s always a wonder to me that companies such as P&R or even Valerie’s Patisserie or Carillion Construction are audited (often by one of the Big Four audit firms) and are passed annually as being fit to operate a business, while the later events show gaping holes in their financial affairs. What do these audit firms do and why are they not held accountable for their professional shortcomings?

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