Mark Kristopher Tolentino
Beleaguered lawyer Mark Kristopher Tolentino, who was caught in the middle of a controversy involving German payments provider Wirecard’s supposedly missing $2.1 billion, on Tuesday said he was framed and his identity was compromised.
“I am just a victim of identity theft and I was framed up,” Tolentino told GMA News Online.
German news outlet Süddeutsche Zeiting reported that Tolentino was appointed a trustee of Wirecard to open six accounts with BDO and BPI to hold in escrow the payments firm’s 1.9 billion euros or $2.1 billion.
But, this is not the case, according to the lawyer.
Tolentino recalled that in the last week of January or early February “foreigners” walked into his office and told him they wanted to start a business in the Philippines.
“I advised them they can open a corporation, but they told me they are in a hurry and setting up a company will take so much time,” he said.
“They said, ‘can you be the trustee of the company? Then, they handed over a letter…,” he added, noting he just received the letter requesting him to be a trustee and “it is not a contract.”
After receiving the letter, Tolentino said he opened three euro accounts under his law firm M.K. Tolentino Law & Business Consultancy Office at a BDO Unibank branch in Taguig City and another three euro accounts at a Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI) branch in Makati City.
He said he complied with all the “know-your-customer” requirements in opening the said accounts and said the initial deposits for the accounts were relatively small, “just enough to buy an iPhone.”
Tolentino emphasized that the bank accounts opened were all under his law firm and “not in trust of Wirecard.”
“In this case binibigay ko sa kanila ‘yung mga bank account number ko. Ang ginagawa naman nila, based on my investigation, gumagawa ng mga dokumento using my bank name para ma-justify yung $2 billion na nawala daw,” he said.
“Ang nakalagay doon sa bank statements na nilabas nila is ‘MK Tolentino Law Office in trust for Wirecard.’ Pano nangyari ‘yun eh ‘yung bank account na yan is just MK Tolentino Law Office wala namang ‘in trust to wirecard’,” he added.
Another inconsistency he noticed was that some bank statements issued were dated December 2019 and from a BDO branch in Cavite and BPI branch in Manila.
“Pano nangyari na may bank statement na December 2019 eh ang ang account ko na-open February 2020? Tapos galing BDO sa Cavite pero ang account nasa BGC…may BPI bank statement galing Manila pero ang account na in-open ko nasa Makati,” Tolentino said.
“So ‘yun talaga ang nangyari, identity theft ang nangyari. Ninakaw ang pangalan ko, account number ko,” he said.
BDO and BPI have earlier denied involvement with Wirecard, saying the documents presented to the banks were forged or spurious.
Wirecard, in an earlier statement, said it was informed by its auditor Ernst and Young (EY) that it refused to clear its 2019 accounts over “spurious balance confirmations.”
It said EY has received communications from two Asian banks, which were supposed to be holding the 1.9 billion euros or $2.1 billion, that they have taken over the management of trust accounts for Wirecard since 2019.
The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, however, said none of Wirecard’s missing $2.1 billion entered the country’s financial system.
The scandal-hit German payments provider, likewise, said that the missing money it booked in its accounts “likely never existed.”
The chief executive of Wirecard, Markus Braun, has resigned after the search for $2.1 billion of cash missing from the embattled electronic payments firm hit a dead end in the Philippines.
Braun was arrested on suspicion of market manipulation, German prosecutors said Tuesday, after the payments provider admitted that 1.9 billion euros missing from its accounts likely “do not exist.”
Tolentino said it is ridiculous to point him as a key figure in the financial scandal since there is no contract between his law firm and Wirecard appointing him as trustee for billions of dollars.
“How can a billion-euro company entrust me who has no experience in banking? I was just framed up, ginamit ang pangalan ko. I am a victim of identity theft,” he said.
The lawyer said he is open to any investigation into the financial controversy and is even willing to go to Germany.
Tolentino was a former assistant secretary of the Department of Transportation. He was sacked by President Rodrigo Duterte for allegedly having dealings with the chief executive’s sister.
He later on apologized to Duterte for making statements that he said put the President in an embarrassing situation. —LDF, GMA News
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