For the Filipino Justice Minister Menardo Guevarra hardly a day passes without him having to comment on the chaos that a German company has caused in his country. It's about missing billions of dollars, fake bank records, a dubious network of companies, possibly corrupt officials and an ex-manager on the run. His name: Jan Marsalek, former Wirecard board member. On Tuesday, Guevarra again went to the press to report a former government member who is also involved in the case: "He says he has received death threats," Guevarra reports.
Unraveling the many tangled strands of the Wirecard scandal in his country is the greatest task for Guevarra during his two-year tenure. He commissioned three different authorities to carry out the investigation. For the leadership of the Southeast Asian country, rapid results are a question of international reputation: the head of state Rodrigo Duterte, who is controversial because of his brutal anti-drug policy, likes to present himself as the top fighter against corruption and criminals. Should he live up to this claim in the Wirecard case, the Philippines could play a crucial role in dealing with the global financial affair.
The man who probably knows most of the answers to the open questions may be within reach for the Filipino judiciary. The Austrian Marsalek, who for years was the closest ally of Wirecard's ex-boss Markus Braun and who built up the scandalous Asian business of the group, flew to the capital Manila on Tuesday last week, according to documents from the border guards - a day after his former boss Braun was arrested in Munich .
The trail of Marsalek, according to which media reports are being searched for with an international arrest warrant, is then lost in the metropolitan region of 14 million. His name reappears in the immigration authority's database the day after his entry - according to him, he flew further from the Philippine city of Cebu to China. But there are many indications that this is a wrong track: At the alleged departure time, there were no flights to China from Cebu. Minister of Justice Guevarra said there was also no trace of the Marsalek surveillance cameras. He is now also investigating the officials who were responsible for the database entries. The suspicion: you could have helped with the possible diversion - which would probably mean that Marsalek is still in the country.
"If we dig deeper ..."
In any case, the 40-year-old, who has worked for Wirecard since the turn of the millennium, knows his way around diversions. He was responsible for Wirecard's obscure third-party business, which is at the center of the alleged balance sheet manipulation. The payment processor claims to have carried out transactions through these third parties in countries where Wirecard itself did not have a license. But now it looks as if these businesses, which ran through dubious corporate networks, did not exist, at least in large part.
The British business newspaper Financial Times reported last year that three of these third parties reportedly contributed almost all of the 2016 profit, according to Wirecard. Since these companies only had small offices and hardly any staff, this seemed unbelievable even then. The trail also led here to the Philippines, where one of the three key partner companies - PayEasy Solutions - is based. The British journalists found that the company shared an office with a bus company there. Both the bus company and PayEasy belonged to a former Wirecard manager - at least for some time.
The Philippine investigators are now also interested in this, as the head of the local anti-money laundering agency AMLC, Mel Georgie Racela, announced. In addition to PayEasy, two other Filipino companies - Centurion Online Payment International and ConePay International - were also being investigated, which had allegedly worked with Wirecard on payment processing. There has been no one at the companies for a long time. Sometimes the phone numbers no longer exist, sometimes there was no contact information. AMLC boss Racela suspects that the investigations have so far only scratched the surface: "If we dig deeper, we may find more companies and people."
In any case, the money has disappeared
One of the people already in the spotlight right now is lawyer Mark Tolentino, an ally of President Duterte. He became a leader in the Department of Transportation three years ago, but was released three months later because of a dispute over a railroad project. Wirecard had recently presented him to the accountants as a trustee via Filipino business accounts with an alleged credit of 1.9 billion euros. But the alleged confirmations from Filipino banks turned out to be fake and the company had to admit that the money probably did not exist. This was the beginning of the crash of the former fintech star.
This week, Tolentino testified before the NBI law enforcement agency. He sees himself as a victim in the affair. At the beginning of the year, he was asked by business people from Singapore as a possible trustee, he said in interviews. He only heard of a connection to Wirecard when the scandal hit the headlines. The accounts he managed were just a few hundred euros. Tolentino sees the fact that he was associated with the allegedly missing billions as identity theft. Minister of Justice Guevarra reported death threats against him from disappointed investors.
Guevarra does not yet have a clear answer when it comes to the results of investigations by law enforcement officers, money laundering officers and immigration officers. The officials only emphasize that they would work quickly and thoroughly in this case.
However, the last major international financial scandal that shook the Philippines four years ago shows how great the risk that the investigation will end up drifting back then: at $ 81 million, the unknown branched off from Bangladesh's central bank accounts and then through a Filipino bank and local casinos. A bank manager who allegedly helped was convicted. The backers were never caught. And the money is gone too.