Philippines says vanished Wirecard number two did not enter country

Wirecard’s former second-in-command Jan Marsalek did not enter the Philippines even though immigration records indicated he passed through last week, according to the country’s justice secretary.

“We have established that Jan Marsalek did not arrive in the Philippines on June 23 based on CCTV footage, airline manifests, and other records,” Menardo Guevarra told the Financial Times. “The investigation has now turned to the persons who made the false entries in the database, their motives, and their cohorts.”

Mr Guevarra ordered an investigation last week as part of a broader probe into the German company’s affairs after immigration records indicated that the executive — who has not been seen since the company filed for insolvency last week — flew into the capital Manila on June 23, then left for China from the central city of Cebu on June 24.

However, doubts that he was ever in the country arose immediately after authorities said there was no CCTV footage showing his arrival or departure from the two airports, and no flight leaving for China from Cebu on June 24. 

Most foreigners have been barred from entering the Philippines since March because of the Covid-19 pandemic, and Mr Marsalek would have had to await the result of a health screening before boarding a domestic flight from Manila to Cebu.

“The immigration officers who encoded these fictitious entries have been relieved and are now facing administrative sanctions,” Mr Guevarra said. “I will direct the National Bureau of Investigation to probe into this matter more deeply and determine possible criminal responsibility.” 

The NBI is probing Wirecard’s affairs in the south-east Asian country, in co-operation with the country’s Anti-Money Laundering Council. The probe includes about five of the German company’s former business partners in the country.

Elsewhere, Singapore has launched a criminal investigation into two companies alleged to be connected to the multiyear accounting fraud at Wirecard, as the city-state expands its probe of the insolvent German payments group. 

It marks an escalation in Singapore’s criminal investigation into the company, launched last year after the Financial Times reported whistleblower allegations of accounting fraud and money laundering at the group’s Asian headquarters.

The police’s commercial affairs department and the Monetary Authority of Singapore on Friday started a joint probe into Citadelle Corporate Services as well as Senjo Group and its subsidiaries for “suspected falsification of accounts” and for “carrying on a trust business without a licence”, they said in a statement. 

Wirecard claimed to outsource payments processing to Senjo and two other partners, according to documents seen by the FT. The German group told auditors that €1bn of cash resulting from arrangements with these partners from 2016 to 2018 was held in so-called escrow accounts managed by Citadelle as a trustee. 

Wirecard collapsed into insolvency last month, becoming the first member of Germany’s Dax index to do so, after revealing that €1.9bn supposedly managed by a second trustee in the Philippines probably never existed.

Citadelle resigned as a trustee about the time that a KPMG special audit of Wirecard began late last year, whose findings published in April only identified it as “trustee one”. 

The opening of the investigation follows a review by the police, MAS and the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority that kicked off after Wirecard filed for insolvency and gave authorities “reasons to suspect that offences may have been committed”. As part of the investigation, the police and MAS have acquired documents from Citadelle and Senjo and have interviewed people involved in both companies.

Senjo was one of Wirecard’s three outsourcing partners and in 2018 accounted for close to €384m in Wirecard’s total reported revenue of €2bn, according to an internal document seen by the FT. Wirecard last month warned investors that “previous descriptions” of the business activities outsourced to Senjo and other partners “are not correct”. 

Citadelle is controlled by R Shanmugaratnam, a 54-year-old Singaporean who has served as a director or secretary at about 400 companies in the city-state. He was a director of the Senjo Group from its incorporation in September 2015 to November 2016.

Senjo and Mr Shanmugaratnam have previously declined requests to comment on their relationship with Wirecard. They did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Friday.

Additional reporting by Olaf Storbeck in Frankfurt

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