Philippine authorities file criminal complaint against ex-Wirecard COO

Philippine authorities have filed a criminal complaint against individuals over the Wirecard scandal, including former chief operating officer Jan Marsalek, following a probe examining the collapse of the German payments group.

The prosecutor-general’s office said in a statement on Friday that the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) had recommended charges against four individuals, who also include Mark Tolentino, a lawyer based in Manila.

The south-east Asian country was thrust centre stage during Wirecard’s implosion after the company claimed to have €1.9bn in cash at two local banks, Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI) and BDO Unibank. The fraud at the once high-flying payments group unravelled last year after Wirecard revealed the cash did not exist. Wirecard filed for insolvency in June 2020.

The NBI also recommended charges against Joey Dela Cruz Arellano, Judith Singayan Pe and other, unnamed individuals, the prosecutor-general’s office said in its statement. Philippine investigators recommended the charges along with BPI, which also brought the complaint. 

The recommended charges include falsifying commercial documents as well as violating the general banking act, the cyber crime prevention act and the electronic commerce act. If found guilty, penalties include imprisonment of up to 12 years and fines of up to 2m Philippine pesos ($42,000), according to the statement from the prosecutor-general’s office.

The accusations revolve around bank documents that claimed the purported €1.9bn existed and were shown to Wirecard’s auditor EY.

Marsalek, who German prosecutors believe to be one of the architects of the multibillion-euro fraud, has been on the run since Wirecard’s collapse and is wanted by Interpol.

Prosecutor-general Benedicto Malcontento told the Financial Times that the complaints allege that Marsalek met Tolentino in Manila in March 2020 together with EY and KPMG, which Wirecard’s supervisory board commissioned in 2019 to run a special audit into its accounting.

Wirecard told EY that Tolentino was its trustee in the Philippines, overseeing cash in local bank accounts on its behalf. Tolentino denies having been Wirecard’s trustee and has previously accused the German company of “identity theft”. 

The appendix to the KPMG audit, which remains unpublished but has been seen by the FT, details a meeting at Tolentino’s office in March 2020 with representatives from KPMG, EY and Wirecard at which the lawyer reportedly said his firm had opened bank accounts at BPI and BDO Unibank on behalf of the payments group. The banks have previously said they had no relationship with Wirecard.

Arellano is accused of issuing forged documents confirming Wirecard was holding cash at BPI, for which he allegedly received payment from Pe and other individuals who remain unnamed at this stage, Malcontento told the FT. 

Tolentino, BPI and a lawyer for Marsalek did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Malcontento’s office said it would run a “preliminary investigation” over the complaint as well as consolidate and oversee pending and future cases linked to Wirecard.

The complaint from the NBI follows the indictment of two immigration officers who last year were involved in tampering with data to make it appear that Marsalek had travelled via the Philippines in June 2020.

Additional reporting by Olaf Storbeck

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