Wirecard 'trustee' Tolentino: I'm a victim of a frame-up, identity theft

MANILA, Philippines – The Filipino lawyer identified as a trustee of scandal-hit payments firm Wirecard claimed that he is a victim of a frame-up and identity theft, adding that he had no knowledge of any scheme of the German company.

Mark Tolentino told Rappler on Tuesday night, June 23, that he never met resigned Wirecard chief executive officer Markus Braun, or had any knowledge that he was dealing with a German firm.

"I'm not very familiar [about the issue] because I'm not a stock expert, but they used my documents to justify in Germany that they are a big company, that they have $2 billion in the Philippines. But the truth is all they have here is just air," Tolentino said in a mix of English and Filipino.

Tolentino's side

According to Tolentino, he was approached by foreigners and a Filipino around the 1st week of February 2020, inquiring about how to set up a fintech company in the Philippines.

"They were walk-ins.... I said they should make a corporation, and that will take 2 to 3 months depending on approvals from the SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission) and local government units," Tolentino said.

However, the investors, who identified themselves as representatives of Citadel Singapore, wanted to expedite the process. 

Tolentino said they asked him to be a trustee of their company, to which he agreed.

"I received the letter [after that meeting], but not the responsibility. There was no contract yet," he said.

He also had to comply with the requirement of opening a euro account.

Tolentino said he opened a euro account at a BDO branch in Bonifacio Global City in Taguig City, but not primarily for the requirements of being a trustee.

"I opened accounts not because of them (investors), but I have clients who wanted to pay me in euros, overseas Filipino workers," he said.

"One of the requirements to be trustee is a euro account. I was still complying, but I'm not a trustee yet, the deal was not perfected. It was just a simple letter requesting me to assume responsibility."

By the middle of February, he had opened a total of 6 euro accounts under his law firm MK Tolentino Law Office for the trustee requirements – 3 with BDO in Taguig City and 3 with the Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI) in Makati City.

"Hindi ko alam na 'yung account ko ginagawa pala na way for documentation (I didn't know that my accounts were being used for documentation)," Tolentino said.

Weeks after, letters from BDO and BPI supposedly reached Tolentino's office, seeking authorization to "investigate" his personal accounts. Tolentino said he just signed them, not finding anything malicious about it.

But around June 8 to 10, Citadel Singapore staff supposedly told Tolentino that auditors from SyCip Gorres Velayo (SGV) would be going to his law office and giving documents to BDO and BPI officials. He found it odd that these companies were transacting in his office.

"'Yung BDO pumunta sa office ko, then after ilang oras, BPI naman...giving documents to SGV at my office. Hindi ko tiningnan ang documents, pero nagtaka ako," Tolentino said.

(BDO officials went to the office first, then after a few hours, it was BPI...giving documents to SGV at my office. I didn't look at the documents, but I found it odd.)

Death threats

By the 3rd week of June, Tolentino said he was shocked to see hundreds of hate messages and death threats on his social media accounts.

Tolentino also claimed that his website and email were hacked.

"Nagtaka ako tapos nagulat na lang na Wirecard pala, hindi ko pa sila kilala (I found it odd, then I was shocked, it was about Wirecard. I still wasn't aware of the company)," he said.

"People, Europeans were asking me, 'Where is my money?' If you check the bank accounts I opened, the amount there is very small, just enough to buy an iPhone," he added.

Tolentino speculated that it was an inside job.

He said that according to his sources, bank documents showed that he had BDO accounts in Cavite and BPI accounts "somewhere in Manila."

However, his BDO accounts were opened in Taguig City, while those with BPI were opened in Makati City.

Both banks have refuted reports that Wirecard is their client. (READ: BPI suspends employee over possible Wirecard scandal involvement)

The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas also said that the $2.1 billion never entered the country.

"They say I am the trustee of the missing cash. If the cash is missing, what is there to manage? And why would an ignorant guy in banking like myself manage huge amounts? This is preposterous," Tolentino said.

"My professional career is a legal attorney in the Philippines. I was never a financial analyst, nor had any kind of experience in financial management, nor in any kind of trust or fund management. Isn't it ridiculous to appoint me as trustee for billions of dollars?"

Tolentino said he is thinking of pressing charges against the foreigners.

With the scandal emerging as one of the biggest financial frauds in recent years, Wirecard said on Monday, June 22, that the missing $2.1 billion likely "do not exist." – Rappler.com

Ralf Rivas

A sociologist by heart, a journalist by profession. Ralf is Rappler's business reporter, covering macroeconomy, government finance, companies, and agriculture.

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