BANK officials, personnel of remittance companies and hackers may have conspired to launder the $81 million stolen from the Bangladesh central bank, members of the Senate blue ribbon committee said.
Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto on Tuesday said it is possible that there was a “grand conspiracy” because it is clear that those involved planned the whole thing last year when the four accounts where the stolen money was deposited were opened at the Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation (RCBC) Jupiter Branch in Makati City.
“I cannot make any final judgment but it is possible that there is conspiracy because the accounts were opened last year but remained dormant. Why RCBC? And why in that branch?” Recto said in an interview after the blue ribbon hearing.
He raised the conspiracy scheme because, according to him, there is no way that such a huge transaction can be executed by just one individual particularly RCBC Jupiter Branch manager Maia Santos-Deguito.
“So it is important for us to hear what Deguito has to say because it would appear that she really wants to say something,” Recto said.
Deguito reportedly admitted opening an account for Filipino-Chinese businessman William Go, into whose account the hacked money was deposited.
There were four accounts opened in the branch last year under the names of Enrico Vasquez, Alfred Vergara, Michael Cruz and Jessie Christopher Lagrosas with a deposit of $500 each.
The next transactions happened on February 5, 2016 where the $81 million was divided.
But the money was withdrawn simultaneously and deposited in the account of Go.
None of the four owners of the accounts attended the Senate hearing.
Go, who owns brokerage firm Centurytex Trading, denied owning the account where the stolen money was deposited and insisted that he never opened an account in RCBC Jupiter Branch.
Deguito refused to answer questions of senators but expressed her willingness to provide all information in an executive session.
According to her, a case has been filed against her by the Anti-Money laundering Council (AMLC) before the Department of Justice (DOJ) and all her statements relating to the case can be used against her if she will talk during the hearing.
Deguito, in a prepared statement, said she had no intention to disregard or offend members of the committee and that she intends to fully cooperate in the proceeding, but she also wants to protect her rights.
“We wish to respectfully underscore that, by this time, any statement she publicly makes, especially those under oath, shall be binding on her, worse, may and will be used against her in said criminal proceedings,” the statement read.
The bank manager invoked her right to remain silent when asked by Sen. Teofisto Guingona 3rd, blue ribbon chairman, if she did not find anything alarming on the transactions made in four accounts that have been inactive since May 2015.
RCBC president and chief executive officer Lorenzo Tan also invoked bank secrecy laws in not answering questions on certain bank accounts.
“I was advised by counsel your honor to refrain from talking about bank accounts and specific transactions. I apologize,” Tan responded when asked about the alleged fake document used by the depositors to open the accounts.
Tan was allowed by the committee to read his prepared statement regarding the incident and his reply to the allegations of Deguito that he has knowledge of the transactions.
“We vehemently deny and disallow any and all knowledge, complicity or participation in the alleged money laundering of $100 million in the Philippines,” he said.
“More important, I have no personal knowledge of, much less personal participation, in any of the transactions that are subject of this inquiry,” Tan added.
He pointed out that RCBC processes more than two million transactions per month with an average peso value of P1 trillion and although he was the CEO of the company, he does not know or have to approve all of the bank’s transactions.
Deguito said she was personally recruited by Tan from EastWest Bank but the latter denied this.
Senator Sergio Osmena 3rd, vice chairman of the blue ribbon committee, is not convinced that Tan is involved in the transactions.
“I don’t think the RCBC president will risk his reputation for this stupidity. He’s making much too much money. The branch manager is really the key person in any banking system,” Osmeña said.