Wirecard

Philippines investigates missing $2 billion

Lawyer Mark Tolentinotold Reuters that he was the "victim of a frame-up

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EUROPEAN PRESS GROUP

Philippine authorities will probe local businesses thought to have connections to disgraced German payments firm Wirecard, which collapsed after admitting to a 1.9 billion euro ($2 billion) hole in its balance sheet, the Financial Times reported.

The investigation is the latest probe as authorities in Singapore, Germany, and Brussels attempt to unpick the firm's accounting irregularities.

According to the newspaper, the Philippine National Bureau of Investigation and Anti-Money Laundering Council will examine five businesses thought to be involved.

The FT named Centurion Online Payment International, PayEasy Solutions, and ConePay International, all of which the newspaper had earlier identified in a March 2019 investigation as partners of Wirecard. According to that investigation, Wirecard claimed hefty commissions from several of these businesses, which didn't appear to have the paperwork (or the physical offices) to back the financial claims up.

Separately, a Filipino lawyer who opened up six bank accounts for Wirecard has claimed he is being framed for the company's missing billions. Wirecard initially claimed its missing money was held in two Philippine banks, although both denied it.

Lawyer Mark Tolentino told Reuters that he was the "victim of a frame-up." Tolentino has not been charged with a crime, but Philippine authorities said they plan to question the lawyer as part of their investigation. Tolentino told Reuters he had opened accounts for a Singapore-based firm, but didn't know it was Wirecard.

"It seemed that all fingers were pointing to me to be the thief and manipulator of the missing money," he said. "I want to clear my name." Reuters noted that the lawyer declined to show documents that would clear his name.

Wirecard filed for insolvency on Thursday, shortly after the arrest of its former CEO Markus Braun in Germany on suspicion of market manipulation and false accounting practices.
The company was once the rising star of Germany's financial tech sector.

It earlier admitted than more than $2 billion had disappeared from its balance sheet, and then later said the money may never have existed. The company's auditor EY on Friday accused it of orchestrating "an elaborate and complex fraud."

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