MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The Philippine government is now entangled in a game of hide and seek with Austrian Jan Marsalek, the dismissed chief operating officer (COO) of Wirecard which is embroiled in what is considered the largest fraud case in recent history.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra told reporters on Friday, June 26, that based on Bureau of Immigration (BI) records, Marsalek flew into the Philippines on June 23.
The BI’s central data base also showed that Marsalek left the Philippines for China on June 24 via a flight from the Cebu International Airport.
“But CCTV footage does not show him arriving here, and there is no record of any flight to China scheduled in the morning of June 24 from Cebu,” said Guevarra.
He said they have yet to determine if this was due to a technical glitch or if their records were deliberately tampered to set investigators on the wrong course.
“The results of the investigation of the Management Information System (MIS) personnel may lead to various scenarios, including the possibility of employing diversionary tactics to mislead Marsalek’s pursuers,” said Guevarra.
Guevarra said it was also unlikely that Philippines was just Marsalek’s transit point.
“It does not seem this is a case of mere transitting because he left the following day. If that was a mere case of transferring from one flight to another, there would be no more record in the BI anymore because he would not have to enter the immigration area if it is just a matter of transitting from one flight to another,” Guevarra said in an earlier interview with CNN Philippines.
German media had reported that Munich prosecutors will seek the arrest of Marsalek. Wirecard CEO Markus Braun was earlier arrested for false accounting and market manipulation but freed on bail.
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 acounts in the Philippines. Auditors later said that the $2.1 billion likely “do not exist.”
Marsalek had been in charge of overseeing operations in Southeast Asia.
Guevarra said he was not sure yet whether Wirecard has operations in the Philippines.
The Cabinet official earlier said that Marsalek was in the Philippines from March 3 to 5, but they were still checking whether he was with a Filipino, and his relationship with that person.
Guevarra said on Friday that the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) has invited Filipino lawyer Mark Tolentino on Monday, June 29.
Tolentino was earlier identified as a Wirecard trustee, but he claimed to be a victim of a frame-up and identity theft by some foreigners who approached him about setting up a fintech company in the country.
Tolentino supposedly opened 6 accounts in two Philippine banks – the Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI) and BDO Unibank – as a Wirecard trustee. Both banks have since denied that Wirecard was their client, adding that they were investigating rogue employees involved in falsifying documents. (READ: BPI suspends employee over possible Wirecard scandal involvement)
Tolentino said he did not know Wirecard officials and had never met with any of them.
Guevarra earlier said that the NBI will work with the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) to investigate the issue, and that the Philippines would be willing to assist Germany in its investigation under available mechanisms.
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,” said Guevarra.
The NBI and BI are agencies attached to the Department of Justice. – With reports from Ralf Rivas/Rappler.com