Saturday, May 15, 2021

Makati court finds ex-RCBC manager guilty of money laundering


A Makati court on Thursday found former RCBC bank manager Maia Santos-Deguito guilty of money laundering in connection with the $81-million Bangladesh bank heist.

In the Makati Regional Trial Court Branch 149’s 26-page decision, Deguito was sentenced to 4-7 years imprisonment for each of the eight counts of money laundering and was ordered to pay $103 million.

RCBC’s Jupiter Makati branch, where Deguito served as a manager, allegedly processed the money stolen by Chinese hackers from the Bangladesh government through the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. In February 2016, hackers breached the Bangladesh Bank systems to steal the credentials. A total of $101 million was stolen. $21 million went to Sri Lankan accounts, while $81 million ended up in the Philippines. The $81 million involved in the bank heist was later withdrawn, converted to pesos, then gambled in a number of casinos in the Philippines before authorities could track it.

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The court found Deguito liable of the crime because she facilitated the withdrawal and deposited the millions of dollars to accounts of four unknown and fictitious bank account holders.

Deguito, during a Senate probe in April 2016, said she was set up to be the scapegoat. She added the money laundering scam “could be possible only with the participation of people from the highest officialdom of RCBC, in cahoots with extremely wealthy businessmen whose far-reaching powers and influence span several countries.” RCBC President Lorenzo Tan and treasurer/executive vice president Raul Victor Tan resigned shortly after.

The Makati court said Deguito was in charge of the RCBC Jupiter branch during the incident, therefore she must be held responsible and criminally liable for the violation of the Anti-Money Laundering Act. It said her defense was not substantiated by clear and convincing evidence.

Deguito’s lawyer said they will appeal the verdict. They added she won’t be imprisoned because she is currently out on bail.

“The judgment as far as I can recall provides that because the amounts allegedly taken have been credited to the account of William Go. My client Maia will not be forced to turn over those amounts. The judge noted that the prosecution failed to prove the amounts ended up in Maia’s account, so she’s not liable to turn over those amounts,” Atty. Demi Custodio said.

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William Go, a businessman, earlier alleged that Deguito and RCBC senior customer service relations officer Angela Torres falsified his signature on the withdrawal slip to release the P20 million from the account under his name.

Meanwhile, the Department of Justice has cleared remittance firm Philippine Remittance Ltd. (PhilRem) owners Salud and Michael Bautista and casino junket operator Kim Wong.


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