Shares in Wirecard plunged after auditors for the German payments firm said they could not confirm the existence of almost €2bn (£1.8bn) in cash.

EY found evidence that "spurious balance confirmations" had been provided and it was unable to confirm the existence of €1.9bn cash in trust accounts – about a quarter of the firm's balance sheet total. Wirecard has delayed publication of its annual results for a fourth time as a result.

The fintech group said: "There are indications that spurious balance confirmations had been provided [that created] a wrong perception of the existence of such cash balances or the holding of the accounts for to the benefit of Wirecard group companies. The Wirecard management board is working intensively together with the auditor towards a clarification of the situation.”

It added that an attempt had been made "to deceive the auditor and create a wrong perception of the existence of such cash balances".

The revelation caused shares to plunge as much as 66pc in Frankfurt on Thursday.

Last month Wirecard delayed the publication of its results, saying EY needed more time to finish its review but that the auditor had not at that point raised "any material findings". 

EY has recently come under scrutiny for its role in a Dubai gold company where illegal activity is alleged to have taken place and is facing a regulatory investigation into its oversight of NMC Health, the collapsed FTSE 100 hospital group. 

In October, an investigation by the Financial Times三级成人视频 alleged that Wirecard staff appeared to have conspired to fraudulently inflate sales and profits at the company's subsidiaries in Dubai and Dublin and mislead EY.

At the time, Wirecard said the FT relied on fabricated documents and sued the newspaper in German civil court, alleging misuse of company secrets and seeking damages. EY declined to comment on the initial reports.

On Thursday, a spokesman for EY said: "In connection with our audit procedures on Wirecard’s 2019 financial statements, we are unable to obtain sufficient evidence to confirm cash balances on trust accounts in the consolidated financial statements in the amount of €1.9bn.

"We have information indicating that spurious or falsified balance confirmations have been provided in relation to these accounts. Accordingly, we reported these matters to the Wirecard management and supervisory boards. Our audit work is ongoing and we have no further comment at this time."

The German financial watchdog filed a criminal complaint against two FT journalists over the reports, accusing them of potential market manipulation.

三级成人视频The results were initially postponed while the firm worked with KPMG on a probe into allegations. KPMG said it found no reason for Wirecard to restate its results.

三级成人视频In February, Wirecard reported a 38pc increase in revenues to €2.8bn, while profits rose by two-fifths to €785m.