MANILA (UPDATED) - Despite being with 2 bodyguards when he alighted from his SUV, lawyer Mark Kristopher Tolentino was still hesitant to grant an interview.
Tolentino is no stranger to controversy. He once served as Transportation assistant secretary, until President Rodrigo Duterte fired him in May 2018.
But Tolentino's name landed again in the news recently, after he was implicated in the Wirecard scandal wherein 1.9 billion euros or around $2.1 billion allegedly went missing from the company's accounts.
Tolentino is allegedly the second trustee responsible for the missing 1.9 billion euros of German payments provider Wirecard.
The former government official said he has received death threats after this.
“I was shocked and parang natakot ako! May nag-i-email sa akin na death threats! Where is my money? Sino ba itong mga tao na ito? Anong money pinag-uusapan natin?” Tolentino said.
(I was shocked and scared. I've been receiving death threats by email. Where is my money? Who are these people? What money are we talking about?)
But he insists he has done nothing wrong.
“Hindi ganyan sasakyan ko kung may pera akong 2 billion euros,” he said.
(This wouldn't be the kind of vehicle I own if I had 2 billion euros.)
Tolentino said that in February this year, he welcomed three "foreign-looking individuals" who were prospective clients to his 2-year-old law firm's office in Makati City.
The three people told him they wanted to invest in the Philippines as soon as possible, but gave no details on the nature of their business or the amount they were investing.
“I think they want to buy a bank or just a real property [sic]. I told them to open a corporation."
The three men, however, said setting up a corporation would take too much time.
"Sabi nila, ang tagal (they said it's too long), our time is too tight, we need to open now.”
Tolentino said he advised them to open a bank account first. The men said the accounts should be opened with the country’s top two banks.
“Ano ba biggest banks? I think BDO is the biggest and BPI.”
By the middle of February, Tolentino said he opened a total of six euro accounts under his law firm M.K Tolentino Law Office -- three with BDO in Taguig City and three with BPI in Makati City.
Tolentino said he went through the normal process of opening bank accounts and depositing euros. He claims the money he deposited was not even enough to buy a new iPhone.
Later, he said, the men sent him a letter asking him to sign a document authorizing their auditor to investigate his personal bank account.
“Binigay niya sakin yung dokumento, nakalagay pangalan ng law office ko. Pinirmahan ko, anyway authority lang naman to investigate kung pwede pasukan and that’s my only participation. Nagtaka ako na after this event meron ako two billion euros!”
(They sent me the document bearing the name of my law office. I signed it since it's just an authority to investigate if they can use it. And that's my only participation. I was puzzled that after this event I had 2 billion euros!)
Tolentino claims he did not hear from the men after that letter. Because of the COVID-19 outbreak, Luzon was placed under lockdown, and almost all business transactions stopped.
But then, news came out alleging his involvement in the Wirecard scandal.
Tolentino believes he was framed as his own personal bank account and that of his law firm were used without his consent.
He also denies being Wirecard's trustee.
“One requirement to be a trustee kailangan may (there should be a) bank account… Pero (But) we have no contract with Wirecard, we have no contractual relationship.”
He claims some bank staff colluded with the three men.
“Based on my investigation, may kasabwat silang insider sa bangko. Paano na-open yung bangko ko?”
(Based on my investigation, they have an insider in the banks. How did they open my bank [account]?)
Tolentino said he is willing to take part in any probe into the financial scandal, and even go to Germany, if the Philippine government can assure his safety.
“I am asking the Philippine government to protect (me) kasi I am just an ordinary probinsyano lawyer. Ang kalaban po natin dito mga malaking negosyante ng Germany, ng Europe (We are up against big businessmen in Germany, in Europe).”
Tolentino said he plans to move forward with a statement or a case on Thursday, June 25. He also plans to file a case in Europe.