‘RCBC case bares PH dirty money secrets’

ENVOY SMELLS COVER-UP Bangladesh Ambassador to the Philippines John Gomes listens to testimonies of bank officials during a Senate inquiry into the laundering of stolen money. The envoy said he suspects a cover-up among bank officials. PHOTO BY CESAR DANCEL

ENVOY SMELLS COVER-UP Bangladesh Ambassador to the Philippines John Gomes listens to testimonies of bank officials during a Senate inquiry into the laundering of stolen money. The envoy said he suspects a cover-up among bank officials. PHOTO BY CESAR DANCEL

When mystery hackers launched a stunning raid on Bangladesh’s foreign reserves, a plot worthy of a John le Carré spy novel was sparked in the Philippines, exposing the Southeast Asian nation as a dirty money haven.

The $81 million stolen from the Bangladesh central bank’s American accounts last month was immediately sent via electronic transfer to the Philippines’ Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation (RCBC), with the thieves deliberately targeting their laundering location.

The Philippines has some of the world’s strictest bank secrecy laws to protect account holders, while its casinos are exempt from rules altogether aimed at preventing money laundering.

“The Philippines is very attractive [for dirty money]because our laws have gaping holes. It’s easy to launder money here,” Sen. Sergio Osmena 3rd, who is pushing for stronger anti-money laundering laws, said.

Still, if the thieves were to get away with their audacious heist, the money had to be moved quickly through the banking system and into the casinos.

And it did.

Authorities took four days to order a recall of the money.

But by then it had vanished — leaving in its place a tale of death threats, bribes, shady business figures and a bank manager who could be the villain or a victim.

“I did not do anything wrong. If this is a nightmare, I want to wake up now,” the manager of the RCBC’s Jupiter Branch in Makati City (Metro Manila), Maia Santos-Deguito, told ABS-CBN television after authorities stopped her at the country’s premier Ninoy Aquino International Airport from trying to leave the country.

“I live everyday in fear,” she said.

With authorities in Bangladesh and elsewhere bamboozled over who masterminded the cyber heist, Deguito’s role as manager of the bank that accepted and shifted the money has come under intense scrutiny.

She has accused the bank’s president, Lorenzo Tan, of ordering her to move the money.

Tan has fiercely denied the accusations.

Senators who launched an inquiry this week into the affair are yet to determine whether she was a scapegoat, but are convinced she was not the mastermind.

“It’s a big operation. This could not have been done out of the Philippines alone,” Sen. Ralph Recto said.

The Senate inquiry and another probe by the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) have hit several major hurdles, including a security camera at the bank not working when the money was shifted.

Accusations and counter-accusations between Deguito and RCBC management have further confused investigators.

‘Money trail’
A final roadblock has emerged at the casinos, with the money apparently vanishing in mountains of gambling chips and mysterious middlemen.

“Our money trail ended at the casinos,” Julia Abad, deputy director of the AMLC, told senators last Tuesday.

On February 5, the same day Bangladesh Bank was hacked, the money was sent electronically to four accounts in Deguito’s RCBC branch on Jupiter Street in Makati City, the country’s acknowledged financial district, according to testimony to the Senate inquiry.

Those accounts appeared to have been set up solely for that purpose because they were done using aliases, the Senate inquiry heard.

After that, the bulk of the money was transferred into accounts of a local ethnic Chinese businessmen, William Go, who has since protested his innocence.

He said his signature was forged to set up the accounts.

From there, the money was briefly held by Philrem, a foreign exchange brokerage.

Philrem President Salud Bautista told Senate investigators that $30 million went to a man named Weikang Xu.

He was described as a casino junket operator but senators have said they know little more about him other than he is of Chinese origin.

The AMLC said another $29 million ended up in Solaire, a casino on a glittering Manila bayside strip that the Philippines hopes will become one of the world’s biggest gambling destinations.

That money was exchanged into chips but could only be turned back into cash after being played in the casino, its management told the Senate inquiry.

Another $21 million was sent to Eastern Hawaii Leisure, which runs a sparsely furnished casino with Chinese-only television in Santa Ana, a sleepy town in the far northern Philippine province of Cagayan, according to the council.

Osmena said the case was likely just the tip of the iceberg.

“This could have happened hundreds of times already,” he added.

“We discovered this one only because someone complained. But normally, if a drug dealer from Burma [Myanmar] or China would send money here, no one would complain.”



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  1. The AMLC of pnoy is an inutile organization at preventing money laundering.what i understand is AMLC officials let the banks do their work for them because they are too lazy sitting in their air vonditioned offices doing nothing..The people is wasting its money on Julia Abad, daughter of plunderer and DAP magician Nutch Anad…

    • The name Abad is always connected to money corruption in the Philippines.
      Want to get rid of some corruption get rid of the Abad’s for one then get rid all the clowns in the government named Aquino.

  2. I dont think our banking system is one of the strictest system in the world. I could say We have a very poor and lousy banking system that could easily, withdraw money from our banking system , because it had had no rules, system, how to withdraw and deposit money at the bank. In my opinion , Saudi Arabia have the most strictiest policies, rules in their banking system. In KSA , if you are willing to do business, they require you to have a residence permit, that authorizes you in all transactions,i.e. bank , government formalities and it will be linked your personal data once you signed your residence card/permit that will be your gates in their banking system. Another thing, in their cheque, they required 2 signatories of the company CEO or managers with the same signature append at their residence permit. If one signature is missing at the cheque, immediately the bank in KSA will reject immediately the same. Also, they have certain amount not to be exceed at their requirements, otherwise they will call the Main Head Office of the bank for clarification. If they found another name in your cheque ( not the original one ) the bank officials will reject the cheque and will not release the money you want to withdraw..The bank manager will inform the company representative that they denied the withdrawal of their monies. This is one of the strictiest banking system i ever know..

  3. “I did not do anything wrong. If this is a nightmare, I want to wake up now,”. Maia Deguito is obviously lying, protecting no one but herself. How come she said before that she will tell all at the hearing, but said nothing when asked. She is a pro at this, scamming at its finest. Too bad the bank’s name is being tarnished by one rotten branch manager who should pay for her wrong doings.

  4. WHOEVER FIRST TIPPED OFF NAIA ABOUT DEGUITO’S FLIGHT IS INVOLVED IN THE SCAM. No one could have known her exact flight details in advance without personal knowledge of the heist. That arrest was too quick for Philippine arrests history. Obvious na kasabwat. Meant to make Deguito the scapegoat for the whole thing. Kasama sa plano ang pagpapatakas sa kanya at paghuli.

  5. Deguito is one of the stupidest person I have ever seen. Without her, the whole heist will not be done. She is the key. She is the mastermind. All transfer was initiated by her. Why stupid ? She was caught and the rest of the gang got away. The group is enjoying the loot and she is definitely going to jail. Imagine, she was dealing with a very big Chinese mafia.

    • She can not be mastermind, com on!. How can you say that?? She was used by Chinese syndicate. Who are involved Go, Tan, Kim Wong and etc. She’s force to talk and now is the time for thorough investigation. The reason why we can’t stop this illegal activities such as money laundering, drugs, gambling is because a lot of our people in the government have been bribed or blackmailed by the Chinese syndicate. It’s time to expose these people.

  6. Sirs,
    All of those involved in money laundering are all chinese origins,they are bosses of banks and business establishments. what the government should do? arrest them and put them all inside the jail.The DOJ and the NBI should immediately act before these crooks escape and leave the country, RCBC and other banks should be monitored and should be required to have fuctioning CCTV if their CCTV are malfunctioned they should be fined P1 Million each CCTV’s These have detroyed the countries reputation, these crooks are experts and be charged with economic sabotage. Dequito the RCBC Makati branch manager as been used as scapegoat under the close watch of inutile administration the AMLC, and other agencies are the same agencies used by Pnoy administration to impeached SC justice Corona.

    • Agree. It’s clear as crystal. Time to act before people act on you…there will be outcry for tougher laws.. people gets frustrated and hence candidate who is tough on corruption will win in the coming election.

  7. Senators who launched an inquiry this week into the affair are yet to determine whether she was a scapegoat, but are convinced she was not the mastermind.

    The Senate yellow ribbon committee needs to be told how to vote and need 50 million peso each just like the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Corona.

    Why let these senators play at investigating ? Why didn’t the Justice Dept arrest who was involved ? Are these senators qualified at all to investigate bank scams ? Aren’t they too busy trying to get Binay arrested so Roxas or Poe could win the next election ?

    • I watched the Senate Hearing on this. Nakakahiya ang mga Senatong mangapa sa pagtatanong. Dapat iwanan sa trial lawyers ang pag iimbestiga nito. Nakakapangliit panoorin ang line of questioning nila.