DOJ Indict Bank Manager, Several Others For Bangladesh Bank Heist

The Department of Justice (DOJ) has resolved to indict several individuals for money laundering in connection with the $81-million Bangladesh Bank (BB) heist in February 2016, including a former manager of the Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation (RCBC), and owners of remittance firm Philrem Corporation.

In a 12-page consolidated review resolution, the DOJ found probable cause to bring to court Maia Santos-Deguito, former manager of the RCBC branch in Jupiter, Makati; spouses Michael and Salud Bautista, Philrem owners; Anthony Pelejo, Anti-Money Laundering Compliance Officer at Philrem; and “John Does” who used the names Michael Francisco Cruz, Jessie Christopher M. Lagrosas, Alfred Santos Vergara and Enrico Teodoro Vasquez in fictitious RCBC accounts to receive the stolen funds.

They face trial for violations of Republic Act (RA) 9160 or the Anti-Money Laundering Act.

The resolution said Deguito, who was fired after the heist was busted, and the “John Does” whose accounts received the funds should be held liable for eight counts of violating Section 3F of the Anti-Money Laundering Act for conspiring to pull off the deed.

“[Deguito] facilitated the withdrawal of the said funds from RCBC and depositing them to the accounts of the unknown and fictitious account holders…,” the resolution read.

The resolution on the complaints filed by the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) was approved by Prosecutor General Victor Sepulveda, upon the recommendation of Senior Deputy State Prosecutor officer-in-charge Emilie Fe Delos Santos.

In the case of the Bautista couple and Pelejo, the DOJ found probable cause to indict them for four counts of violating the same law.

In its complaint against the Bautistas and Pelejo, the AMLC had said “[t]he participation of Philrem was really to ‘wash’ the funds and conceal the money trail.”

Meantime, the complaint against casino junket operators Kam Sim Won, also known as “Kim Wong,” and Weikang Xu was dismissed for insufficiency of evidence.

The AMLC’s case against Wong stemmed from Deguito’s testimony before the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee, where she alleged that the operator had made the referral to open the four bank accounts, which turned out to be fictitious.

The AMLC also alleged that on Feb. 10 and 11, 2016 PhilRem transferred a total of P1-billion of the laundered BB funds to Eastern Hawaii Leisure Company Limited’s account at the Philippine National Bank. Wong is the president and general manager of the firm.

In its complaint against Xu meanwhile, the AMLC cited Salud Bautista’s Senate testimony that “upon instruction of Maia Santos Deguito, PhilRem personally delivered a total of USD 18,000,000.00 and Php600,000,000.00 [of the BB funds] to respondent Xu.”

The BB system was hacked on Feb. 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 Tan, head of Retail Banking Group; Ismael Reyes, National Sales Director, Retail Banking Group; Brigitte Capiña, Regional Sales Director, Retail Banking Group; Nestor Pineda, District Sales Director; Romualdo Agarrado,

Customer Service Head, Jupiter Business Center; and Angela Ruth Torres, Senior Customer Relations Officer, Jupiter Business Center.

There is no word yet when the DOJ may be expected to release a separate resolution of the case against said RCBC executives.

The Manila Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 53 earlier ordered the return of the stolen funds to the Bangladesh government in two batches: a tranche of $4.630 million and another of P488.28-million. Wong earlier surrendered the monies to the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP).

The order came after its ruling was on a forfeiture case filed by the Philippine government through the AMLC.

On September 19, 2016, the Manila RTC ruled that the Bangladesh Bank is the rightful owner of the stolen funds.

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