Filipino bank manager convicted over $81m BB heist

Staff Correspondent . Dhaka | Update:

Maia Santos Deguito, a branch manager of the Rizal Commercial Banking Corp (RCBC) takes an oath during a money laundering hearing at Senate in Manila 15 March 2016. Photo: Reuters

A Manila court on Thursday convicted Maia Deguito, a former branch manager of Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. (RCBC), for cyber heist of $81 million from Bangladesh Bank in 2016.

 

GMA News reported that Deguito was found guilty of money laundering in eight counts of violation of the Anti-Money Laundering Act.

 

She has been sentenced to four to seven years of imprisonment for each count and ordered to pay more than $109 million in fine.

 

The judgment was reportedly promulgated by the Makati Regional Trial Court Branch 149 in Manila.

 

The government of Philippines filed charges in 2017 that alleged that Deguito facilitated the transfer of laundered money from the Bangladesh Bank to multiple accounts under four fictitious names at the RCBC branch on Jupiter Street, Makati City in February 2016.

 

The money was consolidated allegedly into a single US dollar account in the name of Filipino-Chinese businessman William Go, then withdrawn, converted into peso, and transferred to at least three casinos, the report mentioned.

 

Deguito’s co-accused, account holders Michael Francisco Cruz, Jessie Christopher Lagrosas, Alfred Santos Vergara, and Enrico Teodoro Vasquez, were later found to be fictitious.

 

In his 26-page decision, judge Cesar Untalan ruled that Deguito's defense that she had nothing to do with the transactions was a "complete and comprehensive lie", according to the report.

 

Because of Deguito's "command responsibility" over the bank branch at the time, the judge reportedly wrote that the former manager must be held liable for violation of the anti-money laundering law.

 

The court concluded, citing Deguito's own testimony, that she "had full and prior knowledge of the illegal source of these funds."

 

Since Deguito claimed she was only instructed by higher bank officers, the judge said she should have inquired about the source of the huge amount of remittances, he report added.

 

"Accused did nothing to protect herself; but rather, she proceeded in implementing these covered transactions with 'gusto,' hence she must be made liable for violation of the AMLA Law!" the reported quoted the decision as stating.

 

Citing a witness' testimony, Untalan was said to have also ruled that Deguito "had not only facilitated these subject illegal bank transactions," but also "coordinated and corroborated to the execution of these illegal bank transactions for an easy and prompt execution for credit and transfer to the account of Mr. William Go, disregarding and putting aside any obstacles and distraction including that stop payment instruction."

 

The report said the judge added that the testimony of witness Rafael Echaluse, the anti-money laundering council secretariat officer who investigated the cases, was "good enough" to convict Deguito.

 

It was Echaluse who alleged that, among others, certain accounts in the Jupiter branch were opened and used to receive and transfer "unauthorised remittances" of around $81 million from the Bangladesh Bank's account with the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

 

Echaluse was quoted to have said Deguito created and opened the accounts using fictitious identification and allowed the transaction of the "illegal proceeds."

 

He also testified that the money was the proceeds of an act of hacking or cracking, but the judge did not discuss this in the decision, said the report.

 

According to the report, Demetrio Custodio, Deguito's lawyer, said they will file a motion for reconsideration assailing the judge's decision. He also said that his client will not be imprisoned nor made to pay the fine until the decision becomes final.

 

The lawyer was quoted to have argued that Deguito should not be made to pay the massive fine, claiming that the judge found that the prosecution failed to establish that the funds went to her account.

 

Deguito herself declined to comment, the report said.

 
   
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