MANILA – The president of Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. (RCBC) has asked a branch manager of one of its banks linked to an $81-million money-laundering transaction to explain the alleged fake bank account used in the scheme.
Atty. Francis Lim, lawyer of RCBC president and CEO Lorenzo Tan, said Atty. Ferdinand Topacio, lawyer of RCBC Jupiter branch Maia Santos-Deguito, should tell his client to explain the accusation of Mr. William Go of Centurytex Trading that she opened an account without Go's knowledge.
Go's alleged account, along with several others, was supposedly used to funnel "dirty money" into the Philippine financial system before being laundered in casinos.
Deguito is currently being investigated by the RCBC head office for allegedly facilitating the scheme. Tan, on the other, offered to go on leave but this was turned down as he still enjoys the trust of the bank's board.
READ: RCBC probes $81-M 'laundered' through Makati branch
''Instead of asking RCBC to sanction Mr. Tan, Atty. Topacio should instead assist his client to explain the accusation of Mr. William Go that she opened an account in her branch without his knowledge, used this account for deposit and withdrawal without his knowledge, and identify who forged Mr. Go’s signature to withdraw money,'' Lim said.
''He should also busy himself explaining why she attempted to fly to Japan last Friday which has been perceived as flight and therefore an implied admission of guilt,'' Lim added.
Deguito was offloaded from her flight to Japan last Friday. She said she was supposed to go there with her husband and child to celebrate the latter's 10th birthday, and that they would be back in the Philippines in time for the Senate hearing on the money-laundering case next week.
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'DEGUITO CHANGED TUNE'
Lim also castigated Deguito for initially implicating Tan in the scheme but allegedly changed tune later on.
''Deguito had already admitted in a radio interview that she only 'assumed' Mr. Lorenzo Tan knew about the $81 million transaction at Ms. Deguito's branch that is now being investigated by anti-money laundering authorities and that she is not accusing Mr. Tan. This directly contradicts her previous position that Mr. Tan 'knew,''' Lim said.
In a dzMM interview, Deguito was asked if she feels that she had been used by higher officials in the anomalous transactions. She answered: "Hindi ko po alam kasi kung yung term na tama. Basta ang alam ko, wala akong kasalanan. Kasi bago dumating yan sa branch, ang daming process mula sa taas bago sa akin."
READ: RCBC branch manager: Wala akong kasalanan
"Napakalaking pera po niyan, hindi ko naman sila pwedeng utusan lahat dun sa head office na i-credit nila sa account. We, all bankers, know that we have a process to follow. I did not even mandate anyone to credit that, kumbaga outright kinredit nila yan eh," she added.
Deguito also denied approaching Go allegedly to ask him to close the account. She also belied Go's claim that she had offered him P10 million in exchange for closing the account.
"Wala po akong pinapipirma sa kanya," she said. "Wala rin po akong ganung kalaking pera para offer-an ko siya nun."
She, however, stopped short of saying that Go is lying. "Sorry po pero sa Senate ko na lang siya sasagutin," she said.
The Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) earlier said that Go's alleged account was used to funnel "dirty money" into the Philippine financial system, along with the accounts of Michael Francisco Cruz, Jessie Christopher Lagrosas, Alfred Santos Vergara, Enrico Teodoro Vasquez, and Kam Sin Wong (Kim Wong).
Cruz, Lagrosas, Vergara and Vasquez opened dollar accounts in RCBC on May 2015.
TYPO STOPS BILLION-DOLLAR HEIST
These bank accounts were unused until Feb. 5, 2016 when a payment of $81 million supposedly from the central bank of Bangladesh entered the accounts.
Hackers breached Bangladesh Bank's systems last month and stole its credentials for payment transfers, two senior Bangladesh Bank officials said.
They then bombarded the Federal Reserve Bank of New York with nearly three dozen requests to move money from the Bangladesh bank's account there to entities in the Philippines and Sri Lanka, the officials said.
Four requests to transfer a total of about $81 million to the Philippines went through, but a fifth, for $20 million, to a Sri Lankan non-profit organization got held up because the hackers misspelled the name of the NGO.
READ: How a hacker's typo helped stop a billion dollar bank heist
CASINOS USED IN LAUNDERING MONEY
Most of the money coursed through RCBC were converted into pesos by remittance firm Philrem.
The money, on Go's alleged order, was transferred to the bank accounts of Weikang Xu, a supposed junket operator in the gaming business, and to Eastern Hawaii Leisure Co. Ltd. as well as Bloomberry, operator of Solaire.
Kim Wong, the sixth person linked to the scam, has no direct links to the group but has the same surname as the incorporator of Eastern Hawaii Leisure which operates a hotel-casino complex at the Cagayan Special Economic Zone.
The Philippines' Anti-Money Laundering Act (AMLA) does not cover casinos. Hence, it is not certain what happened to the $81 million that was allegedly funneled into Solaire and Eastern Hawaiian.
The Senate blue ribbon committee and the congressional oversight committee on the AMLA will lead a hearing on the controversy on Tuesday. – with Reuters