The Department of Justice (DOJ) on Wednesday junked the tax evasion charges against the remittance company implicated in the release of a part of the $81 million in funds stolen from the Bank of Bangladesh.
This as the branch manager accused of facilitating the release of the funds was arrested and then released hours later on a separate charge of perjury filed by her former boss.
Remittance company Philrem Service Corp. and its husband-and-wife proprietors Michael and Salud Bautista were earlier charged in court for allegedly evading taxes worth P35.61 million.
On Wednesday, the Justice department found no probable cause to indict Philrem and the Bautistas for willful attempt to evade payment of gross receipt tax from 2005 to 2014, deliberate failure to file percentage tax returns for taxable years 2005 to 2014 and unlawful pursuit of business for taxable years 2005 to 2014.
Additionally, the DOJ said the Bureau of Internal revenue filed the complaints with “unreasonable haste” because the agency did not give PhilRem enough time to respond to the investigation on the firm’s tax liabilities.
It noted that the BIR did not give respondents ample time “to present its books for examination and verification.”
“Such being the case, the crucial element of willfulness to evade payment of taxes imposed by law cannot be imputed against respondent-officers of PhilRem,” the DOJ said.
The eight-page resolution was signed by Asst. State Prosecutor Karla Torres Cabel and approved by Senior Deputy State Prosecutor Miguel Gudio Jr. and Prosecutor General Claro Arellano.
It said the DOJ found no prima facie evidence to indict them for violations of the National Internal Revenue Code.
The DOJ recognized that PhilRem has been “consistently paying a higher rate of tax, that is 12 percent VAT (value added tax) instead of the required 5 percent GRT” from 2010 to present.
On the issue of unlawful conduct of trading, the Justice department said documents showed that PhilRem “never concealed” its change of business line despite the BIR’s claim that the firm misrepresented itself when it continued to operate as a remittance firm even if it was registered as a land transport company in 2005.
The DOJ said PhilRem effectively updated its records with the tax agency when it filed its Application for Registration Information Update with BIR Revenue District Office 47.
Earlier this year, PhilRem was accused of acting as a conduit in moving $81 million from the Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. branch on Jupiter Street in Makati to casinos—where money stolen from Bangladesh was supposedly laundered—and other benefactors.
Branch manager Maia Santos-Deguito figured prominently in the Senate inquiry that looked into the Bangladesh bank heist.
In April, former RCBC president Lorenzo Tan filed a complaint against Deguito supposedly for “scurrilous remarks” implicating him as the mastermind of the heist.
Deguito was arrested on Wednesday at the Power Plant mall in Makati by virtue of an arrest warrant issued on August 10 by Pasay City Judge Eduardo Cruz Solangon Jr.
At around 1 a.m. on Thursday, just several hours after Deguito’s arrest, she was released after posting bail of P6,000.
Deguito’s counsel Ferdinand Topacio described the perjury case as harassment against his client. He pointed out that Deguito did not undergo preliminary investigation, which should have been the basis for the arrest.
Topacio added that the complainant was not identified in the arrest warrant.