Amid money-laundering probe, CEO says not resigning
Immigration officials stopped the manager of the Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. (RCBC) branch embroiled in a money-laundering investigation from leaving the country as she boarded a plane bound for Japan at the main Manila airport on Friday.
Bureau of Immigration (BI) agents at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 2 asked Maia Santos Deguito, manager of RCBC’s Jupiter, Makati branch to disembark from the Philippine Airlines Flight PR432, telling her she could not leave the country because she was on an immigration watch list.
“Deguito was supposed to fly to Narita, Japan, with her husband, Eric, and son Eugene Antonio. But all of sudden, we received a copy of the lookout bulletin from our main office ordering us to bar her from leaving,” BI-NAIA supervisor Rico Pedrealba said.
The Deguito family checked in as early as 11 a.m. for their 3 p.m. flight to Japan, Pedrealba added.
CEO going on leave
Meanwhile, the president and chief executive officer (CEO) of RCBC, Lorenzo Tan, said he is not resigning his posts but will take an official leave of absence to cooperate with the ongoing investigation into the reported money-laundering allegedly involving the bank.
In a statement on Friday, Tan’s legal counsel Francis Lim said the RCBC chief is going on leave to give the lender a “free hand” in probing the money-laundering reports.
The investigation is focusing on a possible case of money-laundering involving $81million in stolen funds reportedly deposited in RCBC’s Jupiter branch in Makati City.
The funds were part of more than $100 million apparently taken by hackers from an account of the Bangladesh Central Bank at the US Federal Reserve Bank of New York in early February.
Further reports also alleged that the money was laundered through deposits to four bank accounts at RCBC via wire transfers to the bank’s branch on Jupiter Street in Makati City.
“The bank’s board thanked him for his gentlemanly and decent gesture but said their trust in him is intact and unshaken,” Lim said, referring to Tan.
Earlier, Tan said he believed the bank’s management would be fully vindicated once the investigation was completed, and condemned as “malicious” suggestions that he or other executives of RCBC were aware of the alleged money-laundering activities.
“I will fully cooperate with all ongoing inquiries and believe that I and consequently the bank’s management will be fully vindicated,” Tan added.
No info on HDO, just a ‘lookout list’
Immigration officials said they have no information about any hold departure order against Deguito or Tan.
They said they only obeyed orders from the higher authorities to stop Deguito from leaving.
The BI-NAIA supervisor Pedrealba said Lourdes Bautista and another immigration officer, who was not identified, boarded the plane and informed Dequito about the immigration order.
Bautista and her colleague, however, said they did not know the reason behind the order to take stop Deguito was later escorted by immigration personnel out of the terminal building and brought to the Immigration’s headquarters in Intramuros, Manila.
As a result of the incident, the flight scheduled to leave Manila at 3 p.m. was delayed for almost an hour.
Go claims signature forged
Other reports have said William Go, one of the businessmen linked to the possible $81-million money laundering case, also on Friday claimed that his signature had been forged by Deguito to open an account under his name.
The Manila Times is also trying to verify reports that Deguito confessed to Go that she had opened an unauthorized account under Go’s name in a meeting on February 23 in a restaurant in Taguig City.