The Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) has filed criminal charges against two former and four current officials of Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. (RCBC) before the Department of Justice (DOJ) over the $81-million Bangladesh Bank heist.
Accused of money laundering were former RCBC treasurer Raul Victor Tan; Ismael Reyes, national sales director under the bank’s retail banking group; Brigitte Capiña, regional sales director; Nestor Pineda, direct sales director; Romualdo Agarrado, customer service head of the RCBC Jupiter Business Center; and Angela Ruth Torres, former senior customer relations officer.
The AMLC, in an affidavit submitted to the DOJ last November 18, said all three elements of money laundering were present: the existence of monetary instruments or properties derived from an unlawful activity as defined in the Anti-Money Laundering Act; knowledge that the proceeds were derived from an unlawful activity; and acts of facilitation.
An AMLC investigation showed that five US dollar accounts were opened at RCBC Jupiter Business Center on May 15, 2015, with initial deposit of $500 under the names of Enrico Vasquez, Michael Cruz, Alfred Vergara, Jessie Christopher Lagrosas and Ralph Picache.
No further transactions were made under these accounts until February 2016.
Peso accounts under the names of the same persons were opened on December 8, 2015.
“Investigation showed that on 04 February 2016, payment orders were sent to Federal Reserve Bank of New York (FRN-NY), supposedly of Bangladesh Bank, for the transfer of USD81 million from its account to the dollar deposit accounts in RCBC of four (4) persons, namely, Jessie Christopher M. Lagrosas, Michael F. Cruz, Alfred S. Vergara, and Enrico T. Vasquez,” the AMLC said.
Red flags ignored
Tan, it said, ordered the immediate lifting of the hold order on the transactions despite “red flags,” and without conducting “enhanced due diligence” on the four remittance accounts.
Tan, who is no longer with RCBC, also failed to convene the bank’s anti-money laundering committee and escalate money-laundering alerts, the affidavit said.
“By willfully ignoring the red flags despite knowledge of their existence, the only logical conclusion is Tan knew that the funds originated from unlawful activities. Thus, he facilitated the commission of money laundering,” the AMLC said.
Reyes also knew of the illegal nature of the funds, the AMLC said, but instead of stopping the transactions, he did nothing to prevent them.
Capiña meanwhile completely ignored the suspicious circumstances of the accounts and failed to conduct enhanced due diligence as required by law and regulations, the AMLC said.
Pineda failed to comply with RCBC’s “know-your-customer” policies and conduct enhanced due diligence on the accounts, the AMLC said.
Agarrado allowed fictitious accounts to be maintained at the RCBC Jupiter Business Center, disregarding bank policies and procedures, it said. He also approved large cash withdrawals and fund transfers in violation of RCBC’s operational rules, it added.
Finally, Torres facilitated the opening of the fictitious accounts of Cruz, Lagrosas, Vergara and Vasquez, and allowed irregular withdrawals, the affidavit stated. Torres, like Tan, is no longer connected with RCBC.
‘No head office exec involved’
RCBC on Tuesday again cleared officials in its headquarters of any wrongdoing, but said the case would be an opportunity to prove its compliance with the law.
“We have yet to receive a copy of the AMLC complaint/s but going by our independent internal investigation early this year, we believe that no head-office official was involved in the transaction that was initiated and carried out by key people in our Jupiter, Makati branch,” Gil Buenaventura, RCBC president and chief executive officer.
“We welcome the charges as an opportunity to conclusively prove that our executives acted properly and had no knowledge or participation in any money laundering. We are confident that the cases filed against these RCBC officers will be dismissed,” he added.
In early August, the central bank imposed a P1-billion fine on RCBC in connection with the Yuchengco-led bank’s involvement in the money-laundering scheme.
This was the largest fine ever imposed by the central bank on a financial institution. Days after, RCBC paid the first tranche of the P1-billion fine that was supposed to be paid in two tranches.
Casino junket operator Kim Wong, one of the individuals supposedly involved in the heist, has returned $4.63 million and P488 million in cash to the AMLC.