Stop payment not marked urgent – RCBC

Celia Estavillo , head of legal and regulatory affairs of RCBC, testifies again before the Senate blue ribbon committee. PHOTOS BY CZEASAR DANCEL

Celia Estavillo , head of legal and regulatory affairs of RCBC, testifies again before the Senate blue ribbon committee. PHOTOS BY CZEASAR DANCEL

THE RIZAL Commercial Banking Corp. (RCBC) did not immediately freeze the accounts where $81 million in stolen money was transferred because it did not consider a stop- payment request sent by the Bangladesh Bank as urgent, a bank official said on Tuesday.

The admission was made by Maria Celia Estavillo, RCBC head of legal and regulatory affairs, during the resumption of the Senate blue ribbon committee hearing on the money-laundering scandal.

Estavillo said the bank received 790 messages from the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications (SWIFT) on February 9, three of which were from the Bangladesh Bank.

SWIFT is a messaging network that financial institutions use to securely transmit information and instructions through a standardized system of codes.

Estavillo said they considered the messages sent by Bangladesh Bank “normal priority” because there was no indication that it was urgent.

“They did not send us any high priority requests. They did not send us any stop payment order. They just sent us an unauthenticated free format message,” the lawyer added.

She said the Bangladesh Bank informed RCBC that the transactions were doubtful and requested to stop payment or freeze the beneficiary account if payment had been made.

BIR Commissioner Kim Henares ponders a question.

BIR Commissioner Kim Henares ponders a question.

In effect, the Bangladesh Bank wanted RCBC to stop payment on the deposits made in the accounts of Michael Cruz, Jessie Lagrosas, Alfred Vergara and Enrico Vasquez.

Estavillo said the transactions pushed through because the message from Bangladesh was not stamped “urgent.”

“So the settlements department would just look at the headings [of the messages]. Stop urgent was not included,” she added, explaining that nothing in the subject of the message indicated that it was urgent “unless you open the message.”

Senator Teofisto Guingona 3rd, chairman of the Senate blue ribbon committee, asked Estavillo why RCBC was unaware that it is receiving a request from a central bank of another country.

Estabillo said that since the Bangladesh Bank is not their correspondent, there was nothing to indicate that the sender was the central bank of Bangladesh.

“Regardless, whether they [Bangladesh Bank] are your correspondent bank, the point is by just looking at the SWIFT codes, because you are also privy to swift codes, you would know it’s from a central bank,” Guingona pointed out.

Estavillo told senators that RCBC acknowledged receipt of notice from the Bangladesh Bank on February 9 and informed the institution that the bank had placed on hold the remaining proceeds from the transactions that were labeled doubtful.

She, however, admitted that RCBC did not freeze the accounts despite the request.

“We did not freeze it because while we have the ability to freeze accounts, they can’t do so when the funds have already moved out,” Estavillo explained.

The RCBC lawyer maintained that if it was not for the “misrepresentation” of RCBC Jupiter Branch manager Maia Santos-Deguito, the temporary hold order imposed by the bank on the accounts would have not been lifted.

She claimed that the accounts have already been placed on hold on the early evening of February 5, after their operations group saw the huge amount that entered their branch on that day.

“Our operations group contacted our retail banking group and advised them that they were putting it on hold until further information from the branch and there were a series of calls made,” Estavillo said.

She claimed that it was during that time when Deguito told two people in her branch that the accounts were her long-standing clients and the funds had been awaited for over a year.

“On the basis of that, several calls were made and the hold [order]was lifted that evening,” Estavillo said.

But Deguito denied Estavillo’s claim, saying it was she who tried to contact the settlement department to inquire about the entry of the huge account.

She said the money was credited past noon on February 5 but she did not get any call from the head office.

Deguito then asked her assistant, Angela Torres, to contact the settlements department through e-mail and ask for copies of certain documents that will support the remittance. She said she was surprised to learn that the account has been credited.

The settlements department around 6 p.m. sent an email with the attachment of a document indicating the amount, origin, beneficiary and purpose of the amount that entered her branch.

“A few hours later, there was already instructions on what to do to convert to dollars and remitted to Bloomberry and Eastern Hawaii,” Deguito said, adding that she received the instruction from casino junket operator Kam Sin “Kim” Wong.

But before she received the instructions from Wong, the bank manager said she got a call from her district head, Nestor Pineda, who asked if she can hold the funds.

She told Pineda to make the request in writing and send it to her through email.

Deguito then called her regional sales director, Brigitte Capiña, to inform her about Pineda’s request to hold the credit for remittance. She, however, was told that the funds have been cleared after due diligence.

On February 9, Deguito said she received another email from the settlements department on the recall of the funds but the money has long been remitted.

She then called Capina to inform her of the problem, but the latter passed the phone to Raul Tan, RCBC head of treasury, who said it is not their problem anymore.

“He told me hindi na natin problema yun [It is not our problem], problema ng Bangladesh yun [It’s Bangladesh’s problem],” Deguito said.

“They are aware of the problem but they still continued to trade the dollar,” she noted.


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  1. Philrem owner Mr. Concon Bautista is a close friend of Gerry Limlingan and our very own VP Binay. I will not be surprised if money laundering is involved in their money transfers to Hongkong.

  2. RCBC is wrong to blame Central Bank of Bangladesh about sending swift messages that did not necessarily mean stop payment immediately…WRONG, if RCBC did due diligence, since Bangladesh Bank is not the correspondent but the Federal Reserve Bank of New York…RCBC must have known that this is highly URGENT!! because the Federal Reserve bank is not an ordinary bank, it deals mostly with monetary policy and payment system in the US (central banks of all countries included), so I could see from here that RCBC is trying to defend itself because surely it will be heavily fined by the Philippine govt and if not…sanctioned by the international banking community because of banking lapses (similar to HSBC) and made itself conduit for money laundering. RCBC definitely is not criminally liable for the cyber crime (hacking) but it must return the US$81 million to the people of Bangladesh and thereafter RCBC pursue recovery of money from PHILREM and the Casinos…Ms Deguito and other RCBC officers will also be fined because of their unwitting participation from the money laundering scheme.

  3. hmmmm. This makes me wonder Bangladesh’s control towards thing. I mean is there something that is happening internally with them that the people don’t know maybe? The Bangladesh Bank didn’t even sign the waiver to allow RCBC to talk about the recent stories from RCBC and such…

  4. Polly jacinti on

    “Stop payment” means you have to put it on hold……it doesnt matter if it is urgent or not. Investigators should focus now on RCBC hehehe….something fiiiiiiiishy

  5. Di naman ata nagbabasa mga tao dito eh.

    The lawyer said di nila correspondent ang Bangladesh and walang naka sulat na URGENT and it was an unauthenticated free message so they considered it as a normal priority. 790 messages pumasok sa kanila so they proceeded to reading and addressing other emails coming from their CORRESPONDENTS.

    RCBC is getting bashed for not prioritizing an unauthenticated free message when its Bangladesh who should have emailed the correct format and made sure that the receiving line knows that it’s an urgent matter, instead it seems that they are slacking.

  6. Valerie Garcia on

    Bakit walang sense of urgency ang Bank of Bangladesh when they found out that they were robbed blind? Oh because their own bank officials are not blind at all but 100% complicit in the thief. Just like their own bank governor failed to inform their authorities of the robbery. And these are all part of their delaying tactics to make sure that the transfer up to the withdrawals proceed.

    The payment transactions from the start were all authenticated. The necessary information like hand scans and biometric information from 6 Bangladesh Bank officials were in place and in order to activate the fund transfer which only means that NY feds system wasn’t breached, which means the hackers were working with people inside the Bangladesh central bank.

  7. Since the product of theft entered rcbc’s four fictitious account and transferred to another fictious account of William Go. RCBC has material and juridical possesion of stolen money.
    And these stolen monies now belong to RCBC. They should file qualified theft for those people involved in the bank apart from the falsification of commercial documents,as for RCBC they should pay the Bangladesh Central Bank for the whole 81m dollars as a sign of apology for.not safeguarding the funds despite hold orders were sent.

  8. You really have to question the internal protocols of the Bangladesh Bank. Other banks and other countries wouldn’t have had to clean up their mess and deal with their problems if the proper measures had been in place.

    Even if they had sent a message as a warning, surely there must have been other, faster and more official ways to coordinate?

  9. “Stop payment not marked urgent – RCBC”

    Hey, you, shhhhhheeeeeessssssssh ,keep it low and quiet okay? Now we can all pass this off to the Marines.

  10. When rcbc was asked to comment on the thank you letters sent to 4 fictitious accounts,Mr Bancod the head of operation and IT of the bank said they knew of the return to sender and yet they did not act on the matter,worst excuse was they emailed the 3 branch officers of jupiter instead and decide on the matter. What kind of control is that? The 1st time I saw mr.Bancod was during the advertisement of RCBC and all he was saying is that RCBC has a modern system that acquired recently.PINNACLE system. What happened sir?
    The branch has operation side headed by the CSH customer service head. If he was aware of the RTS issued by support group,this cybercrime would not happenned in the first place. RCBC systems failed and now they are pinning the blame to deguito and torres.

    and you start finger-pointing others…to deflect the suspecting Public eyes off you. And when this thing gets rolling and seems to be working, you go on the offensive
    by legal means, and pin down those poor little minnows who in their given capacity are power less to effect the syndicated SheBang of Shennaniggans….and before you knew it..the whole thing blows up in your face…KA_BOOM. KAPUT. Poor Branch Manager, the recipient of the Big Shit coming down from the TOP LEVEL MANAGEMENT.

  12. I would like to react to henares findings of Philrem that they are not registered as remmitance company based on their SEC papers.
    I understand that when philrem opens an account with any bank,in particular RCBC Unimart headed by BM of the bank requires documents pertaining to your business,same as when they traded fx to treasury department or forex brokers with rcbc,they must be accredited and at their first instance of accreditation,rcbc should have the due diligence in verifying with the SEC the nature of their business,having said that,i think RCBC also flawwed on this one.
    I think if you will check the papers of rcbc clients that trades dollar with them, most of them are individuals or close to the forex head who knows all the black market dealings. Also those high ranking officials of the bank particularly of chinese descent are the ones who break the processes of the bank.

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  13. You received a STOP PAYMENT instruction but you failed to implement, reason “NO URGENT” message on it! What the F..K? stop payment meant stop payment as simple as that no more no less …… this lady atty. estavilla is a big joke …….

    • She thought because she is a brilliant lawyer she can fool us with her palusot. Stop payment na nga, she still insist urgent text message. If RCBC top management (Top ba?) has the wisdom, this thing should not have happened. Their logic of palusot after palusot was only revealing their inconsistency, negligence and lack of deligence in how to deal such questionable bank transaction. RCBC is losing trust of depositors because of this issue.

    • “They did not send us any high priority requests. They did not send us any stop payment order. They just sent us an unauthenticated free format message,” the lawyer added.


  14. What is Stop Payment Request? Is it normal process or an urgent one? I’ve worked in a bank for 11 years and for me a Stop Payment Request is something to be treated high priority. When do we request for a Stop Payment? By doing this, you alert the bank or financial institution to stop any action on the account especially withdrawal. Your request must be treated as highly urgent thus no transaction, bogus or otherwise, be accepted. So, what is RCBC saying now?

  15. the operations group of rcbc h.o. was sleeping on its job. while ms. deguito was obviously too pressured or eager to release the funds.
    remittances of that magnitude automatically generate red-flag or suspicion from common sense. why, because no right-thinking bank clerk can imagine an individual account holder, much less filipino, receiving that huge amount of money! they should have at least delayed the credit and contacted their new york correspondent.
    a part ($20M) of these hacked funds was received by bank in sri lanka and they were able to stop it and return the money to bangladesh central bank.
    are our bankers less smarter than sri lankans?

    • Unless there is a collusion inside the bank. 4 billion pesos is a lot of money. The robbers planned this heist for 1 year. All personnel that will be affected was paid to keep quiet. Deguito is the mastermind and I am sure she has a lot of employees in cahoots inside the bank. One long year of preparation and it went smoothly.

  16. The lawyer for RCBC states:

    “the settlements department would just look at the headings [of the messages]. Stop urgent was not included,” she added, explaining that nothing in the subject of the message indicated that it was urgent “unless you open the message.”

    What a ridiculous statement! No attempt was made to stop the payment. What kind of a bank is this that won’t stop a payment just because the word “urgent” was not included. We are talking about millions of dollars here! How would a foreign bank like the Bangladesh Bank know of this policy of RCBC? that there is a difference between “normal and urgent priority”. Does RCBC send a copy of their policies and procedures to all the banks in the world? “Nakakahiya ang RCBC and its lawyer”!

    As for Ms. Dequito, she was a willing participant to this heist, and most likely was financially rewarded. Unless she comes out with more concrete evidence against the bank’s president, I do not give much credence to her claim that Mr. Tan told her to “take care of K. Wong”. Her interpretation of this phrase, if indeed it was uttered, leaves a lot to be desired. Maybe she does not know English very well?

    • The contention or argument of Lawyer Topnotch Estavillo will not stand even in the court of Barangay Hall. Try harder Ms. Estavillo why not a different approach of computer glitch or virus suddenly disturbed your PC including the minds of your Top brass bankers. I am not convinced with your palusot. RCBC has a lot to explain to Senate committee members. Globally, people are watching.

  17. I think it’s just appropriate she is now being charged for libel. If i were the President, I would do that too. Hindi biro ang paninira ng reputation ng tao and ng career. You are ruining lives of hardworking, innocent, private individuals and their families

  18. The last statement made by Treasury Head was denied by the Head in the hearing. In any case, i think people are forgetting now that the branch manager opened dictitious accounts and taking instructions on operating those accounts frim kin wong. That is a clear violation of bank laws and shows she knew those accounts to be fictitious.

    She said inutusan siya ng President to open the accounts but now it seems she opened the accounts for Kim Wong. She has not given anY proof na inutusan siya and in fact she has been dealing with Kim Wing lobg before she was hired by RCBC. She and Kim Wong admitted this in the hearing. So tell me how credible this branch manager is

  19. Josemakabayan on

    Now the plot thickens….. More and more personalities are involved…
    Surely some protocols were not followed…..
    Abangan ang susunod na kabanata sa Biggest bank heist….,

    • Its that or this shady Deguito gurl is trying to bring down the entire bank so they focus shifts to the new name and not on her. Just a question. Who forged the signatures of William Go? Who used her friends’ photos for the fake IDs? Who opened the accounts a year before the actual bank heist? Maia Deguito. There’s your mastermind.

  20. I worked for RCBC 30 years ago and we always always treat a Stop Payment order as urgent. Now it is very clear to me that that there is a collusion within the higher RCBC higher officials possibly up to the president of RCBC. The Chinese will not be brave enough to deal with a lowly bank manager without connections from higher RCBC management. They are dealing with 4 billion pesos.

  21. This is a big joke, there is ni such thing as urgent or non urgent, if there is request of stop payment, the bank should consider it as urgent or serious, customer will not ask for it f there is no reason, perhaps the bank could do as well is to hold the payment unless there is new directive..these are the problem in our country so many loopholes both private and public services..

    • You have to understand that banks are very cautious animals. They wont follow a simple, normal email from a Bank of Bangladesh. Its like saying pag may nag email syo, na nawala yung mga gamit nya abroad from an email. maninwala ka ba> of course, they had to do some verification. That’s the correct process. RCBC only followed the process.

  22. Conrado Poblete on

    When a financial institution received a stopped payment whether it is stamped urgent or not, the institution has the obligation to do so. Then, the institution has to contact the party who sent the request and find out everything why a request was sent before doing anything. This way, the onus of explaining why they stopped payment on the accounts will be on the requestor.

    • dude, there’s a difference between a freeze order and a request for freeze. The first one is urgent and executory and empowers the bank to seize the money. the second money doesn’t allow the bank to do so. It is merely an instruction.

      The weak internal processes of the bank of Bangladesh are actually at fault for this.