Bankers' group warns public to validate bank certificates received from third parties

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This bank certificate submitted to the SEC for Wirecard e-Money Philippines' registration may be fake, BPI says.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 30) –– The Bankers Association of the Philippines (BAP) has reminded the public to always verify bank documents they receive from individuals or companies in the wake of the $2.1 billion Wirecard scandal, which supposedly involved falsified bank certificates.

"We encourage the public to practice due diligence in receiving certifications and documents from third parties by having them validated by the issuing bank," the BAP said in a statement Tuesday.

CNN Philippines reported on Monday that available records with the Securities and Exchange Commission showed a bank certificate supposedly from the Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI) was submitted by Wirecard e-Money Philippines as part of its registration requirements.

The bank certificate vouched for a deposit of ₱100,089,490 under the name of Andre Rea Buzeta, identified as treasurer-in-trust of Wirecard e-Money Philippines, as show money for its start-up capital.

However, BPI Chief Executive Officer Cezar Consing, also president of the BAP, said elements of the certificate "look fake."

Wirecard e-Money, the local unit of the German e-payments firm, was eventually incorporated as a local firm in March 2017. Meanwhile, this controversy forced its parent firm to file for insolvency before a court in Munich.

"We continue to work with the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) and other government agencies to improve our processes and our member banks are regularly and proactively strengthening security checks and systems to ensure integrity at every level," the BAP added, while assuring that the financial system continues to impose "very strict rules" on issuing bank certificates.

"Some individuals may try to forge or falsify these documents, but their authenticity can be readily ascertained through careful scrutiny or verification by the appropriate institutions," it also said.

Tony Moncupa, BAP First Vice President and EastWest Bank president, said in an interview that banks have their own internal protocols regarding the issuance of bank certificates and the corresponding officer who must sign such documents. However, there could be "some elements who decided to violate" these established practices.

Wirecard's missing cash was exposed last June 19 when BPI and BDO Unibank, Inc. both denied that they had any of the money, saying that bank certificates presented to them by the German firm's auditor turned out to be falsified.

The two banks said they have sacked or suspended employees who were found to be involved in issuing the fake documents to auditing firm EY Germany.

Both lenders claimed Wirecard was never a client, while the BSP said the funds never entered the local financial system.

Parallel investigations have been rolled out by BPI, BDO, the central bank, and the National Bureau of Investigation on the issue.