RCBC manager, others face anti-money laundering complaint

MANILA, Philippines – The Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) filed on Tuesday, March 15, an money-laundering complaint against Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation (RCBC) Jupiter-Makati City branch manager Maia Santos-Deguito and several others before the justice department.

The complaint is based on allegations made by the Bangladesh Bank that $81 million of the $100 million stolen from it had found its way to the Philippines, and released from February 5 to people with accounts in RCBC-Jupiter branch. (READ: How Bangladesh Bank dirty money easily got into PH)

Deguito allowed 4 individuals with no track record to open accounts last year that remained inactive until February 5-9 when large sums of money were withdrawn from their accounts, the complaint said. Deguito allowed these withdrawals despite a request made by Bangladesh Bank for RCBC to freeze the release of the stolen money, the complaint added.

It was in early February when authorities of Bangladesh Bank were informed that about $100 million was illegally taken out of its account with the Federal Reserve Bank of New York using an interbank messaging system known as SWIFT.

The money was moved via transfer requests, with about $81 million ending up in bank accounts in the Philippines. The other $20 million went to an account in Sri Lanka.

The $81 million was initially wired to the Philippines, going into 4 RCBC foreign currency accounts in its Jupiter-Makati branch.

The stolen money was then consolidated into two foreign currency accounts linked to Filipino-Chinese businessman William Go, and then moved to Midas Hotel and Casino, City of Dreams, and Solaire Resort and Casino.

Bangladesh Bank Governor Atiur Rahman asked the RCBC "to freeze the respective accounts if they had already transferred said fund to the account of the beneficiaries," according to the complaint. (Rahman quit on Tuesday.)

Rahman said RCBC responded to the stop payment request only on February 9.

Aside from Deguito, also named in the complaint for violating the anti-money laundering law are John Does aka Michael Francisco Cruz, Jessie Christopher Lagrosas, Alfred Santos Vergara and Enrico Teodoro Vasquez.

Deguito has been barred from leaving the country.

Opened accounts in May

The AMLC said that based on its investigation, Cruz, Lagrosas, Vergara and Vasquez opened accounts with RCBC on May 15, 2015.

A separate account under the name of William So Go, doing business as CenturyTex, was opened only on February 1, 2016.

AMLC said these bank accounts had no financial activity prior to the inward remittance in February this year.

"On February 5, 2016, the day the inward remittance was credited, Lagrosas made an over-the-counter withdrawal amounting to $22,735,000. As shown in the withdrawal slip, the transaction was approved by respondent Deguito," the complaint added.

On the same day, the AMLC said Go made a deposit of exactly the same amount: $22,735,000.

On February 9, Cruz made an over-the-counter withdrawal amounting to $5,985,883,47 while Lagrosas again withdrew $7,236,154.62.

The other respondents – Vergara and Vasquez – also made similar withdrawals of $19,951,502.13 and $9,760,124.15 and $15,215,977.26, respectively.

"The transactions of respondents Cruz, Lagrosas, Vergara and Vasquez which were made hastily on February 5 and 9 constitute money laundering as defined under Section 4 (a) and (b) of RA 9160," the complaint said.

On the same day, the AMLC said Go made 3 deposit transactions with the deposit slips bearing Deguito's signatures.

Go's transactions amounted to $14,323,269.46, $14,298,209.37 and $14,312,185.54, respectively, for a total of $42,933,664.37.

"An analysis of the transactions indicated that the $15,215,977.26 also went to Go. The total amount of over-the-counter withdrawals made by Cruz et al on February 5 and 9, 2016 amounted to $80,884,641.63 while Go's cash deposits  for the same period and with the same RCBC Jupiter branch amounted to an identical $80,884,641.63," AMLC said.

The complaint faulted Deguito for allowing the opening of the accounts of the respondents last year based on "documents that were verified to be fictitious."

AMLC said that verification on the employment officers of Cruz, Lagrosas, Vergara and Vasquez showed that they were not connected with the said offices.

"Not only did respondent Deguito fail to verify the identities of the respondents within 9 months from the time the accounts were opened, she even allowed respondents John Does to withdraw money stolen from the Bangladesh Bank," AMLC said.

It explained that at the time the withdrawals took place, Deguito already knew that the money was stolen from BB as there was already a stop payment request.

"Despite that respondent allowed and facilitated the withdrawal transactions of respondent John Does. Respondent's action clearly amount to money laundering," it added.

Deguito’s lawyer, Ferdinand Topacio, earlier said his client could have been the fall guy in the money laundering case, saying she could not have pulled it off without the knowledge of her superiors, possibly including RCBC president Lorenzo Tan.

Tan flatly denied the claim, putting the blame squarely on Deguito. – Rappler.com