Friday, November 24, 2017

BB heist: Former Philippines bank manager may face trial alone as Philrem cleared

  • News Desk,
    Published: 2017-09-08 12:40:37 BdST

FILE PHOTO: Maia Santos Deguito, a branch manager of the Rizal Commercial Banking Corp (RCBC) whispers to her lawyer as she testifies during a Senate hearing on the money laundering involving $81 million stolen from Bangladesh central bank, at the Philippine Senate in Manila April 12, 2016. Reuters

The branch manager of the Philippines bank that stored Bangladesh's stolen reserves in fake accounts may alone face trial over the $81-million cyberheist.

Maia Santos-Deguito, the former manager of the Rizal Commercial Banking Corp or RCBC in Makati City, was "audibly distraught" when she spoke to the Daily Inquirer.    

The country's Department of Justice or DOJ, in a six-page resolution, has cleared charges against her co-accused, the executives of remittance firm Philrem Service Corp.

Philrem executives Salud Bautista, Michael Bautista and Anthony Pelejo had been accused of facilitating the conversion of the $81 million into local currency while retaining $17 million. The latter amount remains unaccounted for.

But the firm was cleared of the charges because of a Suspicious Transaction Report or STR it had filed on Feb 17, 2016, the DOJ said as it granted a motion for reconsideration filed by Philrem executives last May against charges filed by the Anti-Money Laundering Council.

The DOJ rejected Deguito's request for reconsideration leaving her the only to face trial in a case over one of the world's largest cyber theft.  

“This is too obvious,” she told the Daily Inquirer over phone. “You know me, I have no connections,” Deguito added. “It really saddens me.”

However, a separate money laundering case filed against six RCBC officials including the group's former head Raul Victor Tan was pending.  The others are Ismael Reyes, Brigitte Capiña, Nestor Pineda, Romualdo Agarrado and Angela Ruth Torres.

Deguito said she is currently in the process of posting an as yet unspecified amount of bail at the Makati Regional Trial Court for eight counts of money laundering. The DOJ case accuses four unidentified persons who created the fake bank accounts at Deguito's Jupiter Street branch.

“I’m the only one in this DOJ resolution,” she said during the phone interview. “Philrem has been cleared.”

The DOJ resolution stressed that Deguito is responsible for facilitating the withdrawal of the funds and then depositing them to the accounts of unknown and fictitious individuals, before the money disappeared into the casino system.

During last year's senate investigation, Deguito maintained that she was acting under the orders of top RCBC officials, specifically its then president Lorenzo Tan and treasurer Raul Tan.

Unknown hackers had tried to steal nearly $1 billion from Bangladesh Bank in February 2016 but made off with $81 million via its account with the New York Federal Reserve.

The fund was wired to four accounts with false names at a Manila branch of the Philippines’s RCBC before vanishing.