DOJ indicts ex-RCBC official, fake depositors for money laundering

Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 06 2017 07:41 PM

MANILA - The Department of Justice (DOJ) has indicted dismissed Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation (RCBC) Jupiter branch, Makati City manager Maia Santos-Deguito before the Makati City Regional Trial Court (RTC) for 8 counts of money laundering in connection with the US$81-million Bangladesh Bank (BB) heist in February 2016.

In a three-page information filed on August 30, Deguito was indicted along with “Michael Francisco Cruz,” “Jessie Christopher M. Lagrosas,” “Alfred Santos Vergara,” and ”Enrico Teodoro Vasquez,” alleged fictitious bank depositors in whose accounts the funds were transferred to.

The indictment was signed by DOJ officer-in-charge, Senior Deputy State Prosecutor Emilie Fe Delos Santos and approved by OIC, Prosecutor General Severino Gaña, Jr.

“[O]n or about February 9, 2016, in Makati City, Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this honorable court, the above-named accused… conspiring, confederating and mutually aiding one another, did then and there knowingly, willfully, and feloniously facilitate the following transactions: (1) the over-the-counter withdrawal of the amount of [US $ 14,312,185.54] to the William So Go’s, doing business as Centurytex Trading, irregular account, where the Know Your Customer procedure was not followed, which deposit they allowed/approved despite knowing such irregularity and knowing also that the said amount is a portion of the [US $ 81,000,000.00) more or less, was involved or was related to the proceeds of an unlawful activity…,” the criminal information read.

The DOJ said the accused knew that the following offenses were committed, yet went on with the transaction:

- Electronic Commerce Act and/or the Information and Communication Technology Act;
- penal law of Bangladesh;
- an unauthorized user issued [35] Bangladesh Bank (BB) Society of Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications (SWIFT) payment instructions to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York (FRB-NY) involving millions of US dollars;
- four of the above-mentioned payment instructions were cleared and credited to the RCBC, Jupiter Branch savings accounts of “Cruz,” “Lagrosas,” “Vergara,” and “Vasquez.”

The DOJ said it was made to appear “that the said amount originated from legitimate sources, to the damage and prejudice of complainant,” the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC).

The 8 counts money laundering case was raffled to four Makati City RTC branches: 3 in Branch 149, 2 in Branch 146, 1 in Branch 142, 2 in Branch 59. 

The bail required for the temporary liberty of each accused for each count is P100,000 or an aggregate of P800,000. 

Philrem owners Michael and Salud Bautista, and Philrem anti-money laundering compliance officer Anthony C. Pelejo, who were also recommended indicted along with Deguito, et al. in the DOJ consolidated review resolution dated February 7, 2017, were not included in the criminal information filed with the Makati City RTC. 
It is not clear, as of posting time, if the case against the Philrem executives were dismissed on motion for reconsideration (MR). 

The BB system was hacked on February 16, 2016, and the stolen funds allegedly entered the Philippine financial system through payment instructions made to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York in favor of RCBC. 

Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) messages were sent by BB to RCBC to stop the payments and refund the leaked funds, as well as to freeze the beneficiary accounts. Still, the monies were transacted. 

A separate money laundering complaint was filed against several RCBC executives namely, Raul Victor B Tan, head of Retail Banking Group; Ismael R. Reyes, National Sales Director, Retail Banking Group; Brigitte R. Capiña, Regional Sales Director, Retail Banking Group; Nestor O. Pineda, District Sales Director; Romualdo S. Agarrado, Customer Service Head, Jupiter Business Center; and Angela Ruth S. Torres, Senior Customer Relations Officer, Jupiter Business Center. 

There is no word yet on the resolution of the case against these RCBC executives.