AMLC files charges vs RCBC officers on Bangladesh Bank heist

MANILA, Philippines – The Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) has filed charges against the former treasurer and 5 other officers and employees of listed Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation (RCBC) in connection with the $81-million cyber heist involving the funds owned by Bangladesh Bank.

Charged before the Department of Justice (DOJ) for violating Republic Act 9160 or the Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2001 were former RCBC treasury and retail banking group head Raul Victor Tan, national sales director Ismael Reyes, regional sales director Brigette Capiña, and district sales director Nestor Pineda.

Also charged were RCBC customer service head Romualdo Agarrado and former RCBC senior customer relations officer Angela Ruth Torres. (READ: TIMELINE: Tracing the $81-million stolen fund from Bangladesh Bank

Both Agarrado and Torres were assigned to the Jupiter branch headed by fired branch manager Maia Santos-Deguito who allegedly facilitated the entry and release of the funds from the Bangladesh Bank last February.

Tan excluded in charge sheet

Former RCBC president and CEO Lorenzo Tan was not included in the charge sheet.

He tendered his resignation last May 6 after he was cleared by an internal investigation conducted by RCBC.

He was replaced by former Development Bank of the Philippines president Gil Buenaventura.

In a 97-page complaint affidavit filed last November 18, AMLC said investigations showed the respondent officers and employees of RCBC facilitated the suspicious transactions involving the accounts of a certain Michael Cruz ($6 million), Jessie Christopher Lagrosas ($30 million), Alfred Vergara ($20 million), and Enrico Vasquez ($25 million) despite stop payment requests from the Bangladesh Bank.

The funds were transferred to the account of William Go, who owns Centurytex Trading, and eventually to Philrem Services Corporation owned by the Bautista couple.

Philrem has been trading with RCBC’s Treasury Department over the past 3 years.

AMLC’s Investigation Audit Group said the RCBC Jupiter Branch committed know-your-customer (KYC) lapses on the accounts involved.

AMLC pointed out the respondents failed “to conduct the requisite investigations and inquiries into the accounts, their beneficiaries, and the transactions attributable to their knowledge about the unlawful origins of the funds or their deliberate refusal to know the unlawful origins of the funds.”

Tan joined RCBC in December 2008 as first vice president in treasury, and was also appointed concurrent head of the retail banking group and acting head of treasury from 2013 to 2015.

He ceased to be head of the retail banking group in January 2016 but remained head of treasury.

Tan resigned from RCBC last April 20

In the complaint-affidavit, AMLC said Tan violated the anti-money laundering law after ordering the immediate lifting of the hold order on the said transactions without conducting enhanced due diligence.

The body argued that red flags are circumstances that point to suspected money laundering schemes and are intended to inform banks of suspected money laundering and fraud. (READ: Bangladesh envoy to Duterte: Help us recover $81M stolen funds)

“Tan placed no importance to these red flags – to the risks for money laundering – that the accounts posed. In fact, these red flags point to knowledge of the tainted source of funds,” the AMLC said.

Likewise, AMLC said Tan failed to convene RCBC’s AMLC and escalate the money laundering alerts. He also failed to explicitly deter successive foreign exchange treasury transactions despite knowledge of the unlawful nature of funds.

AMLC said Tan, Reyes, Capiña, and Pineda failed to conduct enhanced due diligence and relied too much on the unsubstantiated allegations of Deguito on the said accounts.

The AMLC has already filed money laundering charges against Deguito and the 4 fictitious account holders last March 15. On March 22, it filed charges against casino junket operators and agents Kim Wong and Weikang Xu. (READ: Will Senate revive probe into Bangladesh Bank heist?)

Wong has turned over $15 million worth of funds abandoned by casino players to the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP). The amount was returned to the Bangladesh Bank last week.

Furthermore, AMLC has also sued officers of Philrem, including Michael and Salud Bautista, as well as Anthony Pelejo.

In a statement, Buenaventura said RCBC has yet to receive a copy of the AMLC complaint but an independent internal investigation early this year showed no head-office official was involved in the transaction that was initiated and carried out by key people in the bank's Jupiter Makati branch.

“We welcome the charges as an opportunity to conclusively prove that our executives acted properly and had no knowledge or participation in any money laundering. We are confident that the cases filed against these RCBC officers will be dismissed,” he said. – Rappler.com