Philippine authorities searching for Jan Marsalek, the former Wirecard AG executive who ran operations for the German fintech company before it went bust, say they believe immigration documents showing he entered the country last month may have been forged.
Records appeared to show Mr. Marsalek arrived in the Philippines on June 23 and departed the following day. But investigators have reason to believe the logs were faked by immigration or airport personnel, according to Markk Perete, a spokesman and undersecretary for the Philippine Department of Justice. The record of his arrival was canceled shortly after it was entered, and Mr. Marsalek wasn’t visible in surveillance footage from the airport, Mr. Perete added.
The immigration record may have been created to check if there were any international arrest warrants under his name, according to Mr. Perete, who said the continuing probe could eventually lead to a different conclusion.
“The theory of some, which is subject to investigation, is that maybe [Mr. Marsalek’s entry in the immigration database] was used to check for a [Interpol] Red Notice,” Mr. Perete said.
Mr. Marsalek was chief operating officer at Wirecard, a once-shining star of the European fintech scene that filed for insolvency recently after admitting that €1.9 billion ($2.1 billion) on its balance sheet probably didn’t exist. The money was supposed to be in two bank accounts in the Philippines, but banks there said they never had it.
Mr. Marsalek was COO until he was fired on June 22. That same day, former Chief Executive Markus Braun, who worked closely with Mr. Marsalek, was arrested in Munich. Mr. Braun is accused by prosecutors of inflating Wirecard’s numbers to make the company look more attractive to investors. A prominent figure in Germany’s corporate world who consistently denied any wrongdoing at the company in the face of criticism in the press and among investors, Mr. Braun voluntarily turned himself to German authorities and was later released on bail.
German authorities are also looking for Mr. Marsalek, according to people familiar with the situation.
A lawyer for Mr. Marsalek didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Mr. Marsalek was in charge of Wirecard’s relationships with three third-party partners at the center of investigations, according to people familiar with the company. Wirecard said it used those parties to process payments in markets where it didn’t have licenses. Revenue from those partnerships made up a big chunk of Wirecard’s business, according to documents seen by The Wall Street Journal.
The company said in a June 22 statement that it was actually unsure about the nature of its business with these parties.
On Friday, authorities in Singapore announced an investigation into Senjo Group, one of Wirecard’s alleged third-party partners based there, and Citadelle Corporate Services, a trustee in charge of bank accounts holding Wirecard funds from the partners, over suspected falsification of accounts and operating a trust business without a license. A recent review “surfaced reasons to suspect that offenses may have been committed,” authorities said.
The Monetary Authority of Singapore recently added Citadelle to its Investor Alert List, a roster of entities that may have been wrongly viewed as licensed.
After Mr. Marsalek went missing, German media reported that he had gone to the Philippines to try to clarify what had happened to the missing money.
Philippine immigration records said Mr. Marsalek departed the following day from the city of Cebu, about 500 miles southeast of Manila, to Chongqing, China—on a flight that was canceled.
Travel restrictions related to the Covid-19 pandemic would also have made it difficult for Mr. Marsalek to transit undetected from Manila to Cebu, officials said. All arrivals are subject to quarantine until the results of diagnostic tests come back, which can take several days.
“These matters call into question whether he entered the Philippines on the 23rd,” Mr. Perete said.
The immigration bureau’s information system documents the identities of officers who input or alter data. Mr. Perete said two officers have been suspended and are being questioned about the “highly suspect” records in the database. Several other personnel may have been involved, he said.
Meanwhile, some of Wirecard’s units including in the U.S. and Brazil are already on the block as a court-appointed administrator tries to raise money to pay creditors. The administrator will also decide next week whether to put the company’s German bank up for sale, according to people familiar with the matter.
The administrator has previously said that a large number of potential investors has expressed interest in acquiring some of the company’s operations. Potential acquirers couldn’t be learned, but the businesses are expected to appeal to competing payment-processing companies or other financial institutions.
The German bank offers payment systems, account management, credit cards, corporate and private banking among other products. The bank could appeal to large Asian funds or other buyers eager to acquire a banking license quickly to offer financial products in Germany and elsewhere in Europe.
On Thursday, Deutsche Bank AG said it was considering a request to provide Wirecard Bank with financial support to help the bank continue its business operations.
And Moelis & Co., the New York-based investment bank, is expected to oversee the sale of Wirecard’s North American operations, the people said. Wirecard North America Inc. has remained a substantially autonomous, separate legal entity from its parent since it was acquired in 2016 from Citigroup Inc. The business issues prepaid cards, which are often used as consumer vouchers or for refunds by companies.
— Paul J. Davies contributed to this article.
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