June 29, 2020 / 7:59 AM / 5 days ago

Philippines promises 'thorough' probe of Wirecard, looking at three local payment firms

MANILA (Reuters) - The Philippines’ anti-money laundering agency on Monday said it would conduct a “swift and thorough” investigation into scandal-hit German payments firm Wirecard AG and that it has drawn up an initial list of people and entities of interest.

FILE PHOTO: FILE PHOTO: The headquarters of Wirecard AG, an independent provider of outsourcing and white label solutions for electronic payment transactions is seen in Aschheim near Munich, Germany April 25, 2019. REUTERS/Michael Dalder - RC155BBFDBF0/File Photo

Wirecard’s collapse last week and admission that $2.1 billion of its cash probably didn’t exist came after auditor EY refused to sign off on accounts for 2019, adding there were clear indications of an elaborate fraud involving multiple parties around the world.

The Southeast Asian country became involved after the German firm initially claimed it kept the $2.1 billion in two Philippine banks.

Mel Georgie Racela, executive director of the Philippines’ Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC), said entities of interest include three local firms - Centurion Online Payment International, PayEasy Solutions and ConePay International.

“As we continue to monitor developments and dig further, we may be able to identify more entities and individuals,” he told Reuters.

The Financial Times in March 2019 said the three firms were Wirecard partners.

Reuters could not determine their relationship to Wirecard. PayEasy did not immediately respond to e-mails and its telephone number was disconnected. Centurion’s number was out of service and ConePay could not be reached for comment, with no contact details on its website or its annual filing with the corporate regulator.

Wirecard Philippines did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Philippine central bank governor, Benjamin Diokno, who chairs the AMLC, declined to say who else the probe might look at.

The central bank has said no money from Wirecard entered the Philippines’ financial system. The local lenders named by the German firm - the Bank of the Philippines Islands and Banco de Oro Unibank - have also said it was not a client.

Wirecard Chief Executive Markus Braun was arrested in Germany last week and has been released on bail. German media have reported that German prosecutors will also seek the arrest of Jan Marsalek, its former chief operating officer.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra told Reuters on Friday that Marsalek was in the Philippines on June 23 and immigration records showed he flew to China from Cebu the next day.

But Guevarra added that Marsalek was not captured leaving the country on airport surveillance cameras and there is no record of a flight to China from Cebu on June 24, suggesting he may still be in the Philippines.

Reporting by Neil Jerome Morales; Editing by Martin Petty and Edwina Gibbs

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