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Who Is Attorney Mark Tolentino, the Filipino Tagged in the Billion-Dollar Wirecard Scandal?

How does a dismissed government official factor into the equation?
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German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung has named former Department of Transportation (DOTr) assistant secretary Mark Tolentino as a suspicious figure in the billion-dollar Wirecard scandal. The German fintech story, once a success story on the DAX, made headlines when it reported that 1.9 billion euros ($2.1 billion) in cash was missing from its accounts. Wirecard later backtracked on its statements, saying the missing funds probably “did not exist.”

Top story: The Wirecard Scandal: How $2 Billion 'Disappeared' in the Philippines

Yet this change of tune doesn’t account for the forged bank documents linking two major Philippine banks, BDO Unibank and Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI), to the Wirecard scandal.Both BPI and BDO have adamantly denied any relationship to Wirecard, and the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas also affirmed that such a huge sum of money never entered the Philippine financial system, at least through Wirecard.

So where is the money, if it even exists? And how does a dismissed government official factor into the equation?

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Who is Mark Tolentino?

Before Tolentino became associated with the Wirecard Scandal, he was a former assistant secretary at the DOTr up until he was sacked by President Rodrigo Duterte, who also happened to be the one to appoint him to the position.

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At DOTr, Tolentino headed the Mindanao Railway Project, which became a point of contention betweenhim and the “higher-ups” at the transportation department. He was eventually fired by Duterte, whom he had campaigned for, due to alleged irregularities in his dealings, including “having dealings with a presidential relative, a sister,” in relation to one of his projects, said presidential spokesperson Harry Roque Jr. in 2018.

"Ang kasalanan po ni Tolentino ay siya po ay nakipag-usap sa isang kamag-anak ng presidente. Ang order po ng presidente sa lahat ng nasa gobyerno, huwag niyo pong kakausapin ang kahit sinong kamag-anak niya na meron pong gustong kontrata or appointment sa gobyerno," explained Roque in 2018.

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The DOTr was more than happy to see him go, and in an official statement, said the department “welcomes and strongly supports the decision of the President to terminate the services of Mr. Tolentino as Assistant Secretary for Railways due to questionable dealings and unfairly involving the first family with matters regarding the Mindanao Railway Project.”

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Following his dismissal, the lawyer became a YouTuber and social media personality who gave free online legal advice to his followers as “Kuya” Mark. Specializing in litigation and corporate law, the attorney also has his own law firm, M.K. Tolentino Law & Business Consultancy Office. While Tolentino’s YouTube channel is still up, his law firm’s website is currently down.

How is He Involved?

Tolentino wears many hats, but the one that caught international attention was his alleged role as “Trustee 2” of Wirecard’s missing funds. According to Süddeutsche Zeitung and a KPMG report, this means Tolentino was the one responsible for the lost 1.9 billion euros, which Wirecard now claims does not exist.

The German paper alleges the dismissed government official “opened a total of six accounts with the Bank of the Philippine Islands and BDO Unibank for the German company. He is said to have invested 393.5 million euros for Wirecard UK & Ireland Ltd. For Wirecard Technology GmbH, it was 400.5 million. Thirty million for Wirecard AG, 20 million for Wirecard Sales International GmbH and finally almost 1.1 billion for the subsidiary Cardsystem Middle East FZ LLC.”

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This totals to around 1.938 billion euros.

What Does He Have to Say?

Tolentino denies all the allegations, claiming he has nothing to do with the controversial scandal involving the former fintech darling.

The attorney, who has chosen to be represented by another lawyer, released a statement through Dennis P. Manalo Law Office, which states the following:

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“Formal demands have been made today for BPI and BDO to confirm these accounts and to treat them with absolute confidentiality, as mandated in the Foreign Currency Deposit Act of the Philippines. MKT Law adamantly denies knowledge and participation in any alleged irregularity airing from news reports that Certificates of Deposits issued by BPI and BDO and submitted to Ernst and Young GMBH were spurious.

“All services rendered by MKT Law, including the opening and maintenance of Philippine deposit accounts for foreign clients, are above board and performed with utmost compliance with Philippine laws and regulations. MKT Law is still in the process of conducting its own investigation and will act further based on facts that would be established. However, given its fiduciary duties, MKT Law cannot disclose or discuss any client information and detail.”

So for now, all the allegations against attorney Mark Tolentino and his role in the multinational scheme remain just that—allegations.

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About The Author
Anri Ichimura
Staff Writer, Esquire Philippines
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