Ex-Wirecard COO was not in PH in June; immigration data faked

Controversial Austrian businessman Jan Marsalek of the embattled German firm Wirecard was not in the Philippines between June 23 and 24, as it turned out the immigration data of his supposed flights were fake, the Department of Justice (DOJ) said.

"The immigration officers who encoded these fictitious entries have been relieved and are now facing administrative sanctions," Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra told reporters on Saturday, July 4.

Guevarra earlier said the immigration data of Marsalek's supposed flights were "curious," because CCTV footage did not show him arriving at the airport. Data also showed he flew out of Cebu for China on June 24 but there were no flights to China that day from the Mactan-Cebu International Airport.

"Without prejudice to the results of the Bureau of Immigration (BI) fact-finding committee, it appears to me that the false entries were deliberately encoded," Guevarra said.

Guevarra said the investigation will now focus on "the persons who made the false entries in the data base, their motives, and their cohorts."

"The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) may enter the picture soon to determine if this was an isolated incident or an irregularity that has been repeatedly committed in the past," said Guevarra.

Marsalek did visit the Philippines last March 3 and departed on March 5.

Philippine connection

It was still unclear what exactly Marsalek's connections were to the Philippines, but the NBI has summoned Filipino lawyer Mark Tolentino who was earlier identified as a trustee who opened accounts in Philippine banks. 

These banks had denied Wirecard was ever their client.

Tolentino said he was a victim of identity theft and frame up.

Auditors found that Wirecard, a German payments provider, was missing 1.9 billion euros ($2.1 billion) and initially said the money was in trust accounts in the Philippines. Auditors later said that the $2.1 billion likely "do not exist."

German media reported that prosecutors may seek Marsalek's arrest over the $2.1-billion scandal, now considered the largest fraud case in recent history.

Guevarra said Germany has not reached out for assistance in the investigation.

Germany and the Philippines have no extradition and mutual legal assistance treaties.

"We are doing this on our own to find out if any act of fraud, falsification, or other financial crime in relation to Wirecard was committed in Philippine territory," Guevarra had earlier said. 

Marsalek was responsible for the Asia business that became the focus of accounting irregularities – including a missing 1.9 billion euros ($2.1 billion) supposedly banked in the Philippines – that ultimately brought Wirecard down.

Wirecard has filed for insolvency and admitted that the 1.9 billion euros likely did not exist.

Marsalek failed to turn himself in to Munich investigators despite a reported earlier promise to do so.

Wirecard's former chief executive and founder Markus Braun was bailed for 5 million euros last week after reporting to prosecutors over charges of falsifying accounts.

The assets supposedly held in trust accounts at two Philippine banks were to cover risks in trading carried out by third parties on Wirecard's behalf.

But the Philippines' central bank said the cash never entered the country's financial system and both banks, BDO and BPI, have denied having a relationship with Wirecard. – with reports from Agence France-Presse/Rappler.com

Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email lian.buan@rappler.com or tweet @lianbuan.

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