NBI invites Filipino lawyer tagged in Wirecard scandal for questioning

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 26) – The National Bureau of Investigation is inviting Filipino lawyer Mark Tolentino for questioning in relation to the $2.1 billion Wirecard scandal, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said on Friday.

Guevarra said Tolentino, who runs a law firm and is tagged as a trustee of the embattled German payments firm, will be probed to shed light on his involvement in the billions of missing cash.

Tolentino was a former assistant secretary in the Department of Transportation who was sacked by President Rodrigo Duterte in 2018 for pushing for a railway project involving Duterte's sister.

The DOJ chief added that Immigration officials are also being investigated in connection with the travel records of Jan Marsalek, the chief operating officer of the German firm, who appears to have traveled to the Philippines earlier this week.

The Immigration database showed that the foreigner flew in June 23 and left for China on June 24 via Cebu, but there were no scheduled flights to the mainland that day. Covered by the investigation are members of the bureau's Management Information Systems division.

RELATED: Wirecard files for insolvency after ex-CEO arrested in $2 billion scandal

"The results of the investigation of the MIS personnel may lead to various scenarios, including the possibility of employing diversionary tactics to mislead Marsalek's pursuers," Guevarra said regarding Immigration employees.

On Thursday, Guevarra said BI records showed that the sacked Wirecard official arrived in Manila on June 23, and left for China from Cebu the next morning. However, there was no trace of him in the CCTV footage at the Mactan-Cebu International Airport. The probe will establish if the record was merely caused by a glitch, or if there was some wrongdoing involved.

Initial information revealed that Marsalek traveled with his Filipina wife, which was how he got to enter the country despite travel restrictions due to COVID-19. Marsalek last visited Manila from March 3 to 5, right before lockdown measures kicked in.

In a fresh statement, Tolentino said he was being framed for the mess involving the German firm's finances, which has triggered the resignation of its chief executive officer Markus Braun and forced the company to file for insolvency.

Tolentino denied holding the missing cash or knowing where the funds are, saying he was only approached by men "early this year" who offered to make him a trustee for the shares of a local financial technology company they will put up.

"I cannot be a part of that group [when] I only knew these gentlemen in early this year," he said, noting that he couldn't possibly take part in the scheme "when the image and honor of the banking system of my country is at stake."

BDO Unibank and the Bank of the Philippine Islands, two of the country's biggest lenders, have denied that they held Wirecard's money. Tolentino said the money is probably hidden away in a private banking unit of an Asian or European institution, and that he may again be accused of secretly managing the missing funds.

He said six of his own bank accounts have been linked to Wirecard and are supposedly holding the missing money.

"It is possible that there would be fabricated documents which will surface in the future that contains my name as holder of accounts in international banks," Tolentino said.

The foreign payments firm saw its stock market value collapse by 90 percent in the span of a week following the report of the missing funds. Wirecard officials said the money may not have existed after all.

CNN Philippines' Anjo Alimario contributed to this report.