BPI suspends junior officer over fake document vetting Wirecard's money

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 22) – The Bank of the Philippine Islands said it has suspended one of its assistant managers who may have been involved in the issuance of a fake document that vouched for the existence of a trust account of German firm Wirecard AG in the country.

Wirecard, which has been tagged for supposed fraud in 2019, announced last week that it has lost track of 1.9 billion euros (about ₱107 billion) worth of cash, as its external auditor Ernst & Young Germany could not find the trust accounts which were supposed to hold the money.

The Ayala-led lender told the local bourse Monday that it has rolled out its own investigation into the issue. It said the junior officer "who may have played a part in the preparation of the said document" has been suspended as the probe is ongoing.

BPI and BDO Unibank, Inc. both denied last week that they had a business relationship with the German payments company, adding they did not hold any of missing money. Both reported the incident to the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas.

Last week, BDO said it sacked a marketing officer for fabricating a bank certificate issued to EY Germany, which carried forged signatures of bank officers to assure the existence of Wirecard's supposed trust account. BPI also said a similar document presented to the bank by Wirecard's auditor was bogus.

Governor Benjamin Diokno said Sunday that the billions of cash never entered the Philippine financial system and the incident did not cause any losses to the two banks. The central bank is doing its own probe into the incident, but Diokno said it appears that BDO and BPI were only tagged in the incident as an attempt to "cover the perpetrators' track."

The amount is said to be worth one-fourth of the company's consolidated balance sheet. Failure to trace where the amounts are will allow about 2 billion euros worth of loans to Wirecard AG to be terminated.

On Monday, Wirecard said in a statement that there is a "prevailing likelihood" that the trust account balances do not exist. The company added it is exploring sustainable financing now that its loan contracts are in limbo.

Wirecard's long-time CEO Markus Braun resigned Friday amid the controversy, with Dr. James Freis, Jr. stepping in as interim CEO.

BPI shares rose by 0.55 percent to ₱73 apiece on Monday, the first trading day after the Wirecard scandal came to light. Meanwhile, BDO stocks went down 1 percent to ₱99 each.