DOJ looking into alleged death in PH of businessman linked to Wirecard scandal

Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 07 2020 12:26 AM

MANILA - The Department of Justice (DOJ) said Thursday it was trying to confirm the reported death of a German businessman linked to the Wirecard scandal that had rocked the global fintech industry.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said a certain Christopher Reinhard Bauer reportedly died on July 27 this year based on information from the Office of the Civil Registry of Parañaque City.

"We are now securing a copy of the deceased's death certificate, burial permit, and other relevant records in order to confirm if he is the same person subject of the ongoing investigation, as well as find out the cause of his death," he said in a text message.

Philippine authorities in June announced that they were investigating Christopher Bauer and his wife Belinda over their alleged involvement in the Wirecard scandal, which involved €1.9 billion in missing funds that could have been non-existent after all.

Guevarra confirmed this on Thursday.

"Christopher Bauer is part of an ongoing NBI/AMLC investigation on the Wirecard fraud. It appears that he was a former executive of Wirecard Asia," he explained, without providing additional details.

The report on Bauer's supposed death was first published on the Financial Times on Wednesday, which also cited Facebook posts of Belinda and her daughter supposedly showing a black ribbon and an urn with Bauer's name, as well as a death notice published in a regional newspaper in Hesse, Germany.

The news agency identified the Bauer couple as owners of PayEasy Solutions, a Manila-based payments processor and a key business partner for Wirecard.

A Financial Times investigation showed that PayEasy Solutions accounted for €291.4 million of Wirecard's reported 2018 revenue of €2 billion but Wirecard would later disclose that its outsourced operations in Asia, which covers PayEasy, had been misrepresented.

The Financial Times also reported that as late as last year, Wirecard granted PayEasy €260 million in loans.

Wirecard filed for bankruptcy in the aftermath of the scandal.

Guevarra said initial information showed that "in 2015, an inward remittance to [Bauer's] account from Wirecard Asia was noted, reportedly for consultancy services rendered."

But he did not divulge the amount of the remittance involved.

Guevarra did confirm, however, that Bauer's reported death came after the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) started its probe on the Wirecard scandal.

"The commencement of the Wirecard investigation preceded Bauer's reported death. The NBI has submitted an initial report last month. The investigation is still going on," he said.

The circumstances of Bauer's death adds to the mystery surrounding the whereabouts of a Wirecard executive who was first thought to be hiding in the Philippines.

The justice secretary in July said they were looking into "fictitious entries" in the database of the Immigration bureau involving the travel record of former Wirecard chief operating officer Jan Marsalek who supposedly arrived in the Philippines on June 23 and left for China the next day.

But CCTV footage reviewed by authorities did not show Marsalek's arrival and neither was there a scheduled flight from Cebu to China in the morning of June 24.

The Bureau of Immigration immediately relieved the immigration officers involved.