BUSINESSMAN Kam Sin Wong, also known as “Kim Wong,” can’t pin all the blame on Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. (RCBC) Jupiter Branch Manager Maia Santos-Deguito for the illegal money transfer because he also played an active role in facilitating the entry of a huge amount of cash into the country, Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto said on Wednesday.
Wong was the star witness when the Senate blue ribbon committee resumed its inquiry into the laundering of $81 million in stolen money from the Bangladesh Bank on Tuesday.
“Ang maliwanag dito para sa akin, hindi nila pwedeng ituro lamang si [(For me what is clear is that they can’t solely point at) RCBC (Jupiter Branch manager) Maia Deguito],” Recto said in a radio interview.
Wong, in his testimony on Tuesday, said that he got P100 million in cash on February 5 and another P300 million and $5 million in cash from February 10 to 14.
He also said that he is willing to turn over the $4.63 million that was deposited with Solaire Casino.
The amount was part of the $63 million that went to Midas and Solaire Casinos.
“I am willing to turn over the $4.63 million cash to Bangladesh. We who are working in casinos, we have a word of honor,” he said when asked during the hearing if he is willing to turn over the money to the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) for safekeeping.
He also said that some $17 million is still with PhilRem.
He claimed that it was Deguito who facilitated the opening of the bank accounts to which the stolen money was transferred.
“Si Maia ang nagpeke ng sinasabing limang bank accounts. Si Maia ang gumawa ng lahat ng paraan para mailabas ang pera sa banko [It was Maia who created the five fictitious bank accounts. It was Maia who released the money from the bank],” Wong said.
Recto noted that based on the testimony of Wong, he and two Chinese businessmen–Shuhua Gao and Zhize Ding–knew about the huge amount of money that will enter the Philippines even before Deguito opened four RCBC accounts.
It was Wong who introduced Gao to Deguito who helped them open the four fictitious bank accounts at RCBC Jupiter Branch where funds were later deposited.
“May 2015 pa noong ginawa yung accounts. Ang maliwanag, alam nila na may papasok na pera kaya nagbukas ng accounts [The accounts were opened in May 2015. What is clear is that they knew about the entry of money that is why they opened the accounts],” Recto pointed out.
Wong said it was Deguito who facilitated the opening of the four bank accounts where the stolen money was later deposited. He said it was she who also released the money from the bank.
The four bank accounts were under the names of Michael Cruz, Jessie Lagrosas, Alfred Vergara, Enrico Vasquez and businessman William So Go.
But Dante Jimenez, founding president of the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC), said Deguito will counter Wong’s allegations.
Jimenez said Deguito monitored the Senate hearing and was greatly affected by the lies made by the businessman.
“She is ready to answer the allegations next week and she is really affected by Wong’s testimony,” Jimenez said.
According to him, Deguito is staying in a safehouse. She is expected to attend the Senate hearing on April 5 (Tuesday).
Jimenez at the same time called on RCBC president Lorenzo Tan and other bank officials to resign for them to save the institution.
“We all know the dangerous consequences when banking institutions are threatened [with]losing their integrity, credibility or trustworthiness and depositors lose their confidence in a bank. A bank run may occur and we should exert all efforts to forestall this economic tragedy from happening,” the VACC head said in a statement.
The VACC is helping Deguito by providing security for the former bank manager.
Meanwhile, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) said the $81- million money laundering scandal that rocked the country’s banking industry is a cause for national shame.
CBCP president and Lingayen Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas expressed belief that some government officials and public servants may have been involved in the laundering of the stolen money, considering the magnitude of the amount involved and the intricacies of the banking process.
“No one pulls off a criminal stunt like this alone. So it is that the dramatis personae in this sad story of loot and theft are many including cyber-criminals, colluding bank executives, probably even government officials and public servants,” Villegas said n a statement titled “Money Laundering in the Gambling Republic.”
The CBCP made the statement on March 28, a day after Easter, but was released only on Wednesday.
The $81 million stolen from the Bangladesh Central Bank’s foreign exchange account at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York was remitted to the four fictitious accounts at the RCBC Jupiter Branch in Makati City (Metro Manila), and from there, consolidated into another alleged fictitious account of businessman William So Go, then to a local money-transfer firm Philrem, and then into the account of several casinos.
Villegas said proposed solutions to include amendment to the Anti-Money Laundering Act that would place casinos under the watch of the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) would not deter a repeat of a similar criminal act in the future.
The prelate added that concerted efforts should instead be focused on real problems like enforcement, public vigilance and the moral bankruptcy that underlies all forms of criminality, disorder and immoral conduct.
“The Senate has commenced an investigation into the matter, and we are only now starting to see how wide the reach of this form of criminality and arrant immorality is,” Villegas pointed out.
He reiterated that the Church is strongly against casinos and other forms of gambling not just because these are avenues of money laundering and destroy the moral fiber of Filipino families.
“But we decry casinos more as a symbol of the reckless abandon with which many live their lives. It is common knowledge that fortunes have been lost, families have been wrecked, futures shattered at casino tables, and yet, they continue to thrive, government sanctions them and their operators and owners continue to enrich themselves,” Villegas said.
He added that the Church will continue to vigilantly monitor gambling activities, report them to authorities and constantly educate the faithful on the immorality of gambling in whatever form.