Launder raps filed vs RCBC exec

Edu Punay - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Justice (DOJ) is set to investigate the money laundering complaint filed against a branch manager of the Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. (RCBC) by the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) last week.

Prosecutor General Claro Arellano told reporters the AMLC complaint has been assigned to Assistant State Prosecutor Gilmarie Fe Pacamarra for preliminary investigation to determine whether there is probable cause to warrant the filing of criminal charges of money laundering under Section 4 of the Anti-Money Laundering Act in court against Maia Santos-Deguito.

Arellano, chief of the DOJ’s prosecutorial arm, said the handling prosecutor would issue a subpoena on Deguito and other respondents in the complaint as well as set hearings.

In its nine-page complaint, AMLC deputy director Vencent Salido sought the indictment of Deguito and four other respondents – Michael Francisco Cruz, Jessie Christopher Lagrosas, Alfred Santos Vergara and Enrico Teodoro Vasquez, the supposed owners of the bank accounts where $80,884,641.63 stolen by hackers from the Bank of Bangladesh were reportedly wired.

The council included the four individuals in the complaint despite an initial finding that the names might be fictitious.

Filipino-Chinese businessman William Go, to whom the amount was reportedly transferred before the money was laundered in local casinos, was not among the respondents.

The AMLC said Deguito, manager of RCBC’s branch on Jupiter Street in Makati City, approved the opening of the subject bank accounts on May 15, 2015 based on fictitious identity documents.

The names, it bared, did not belong to the four unidentified persons who appeared in the bank for the opening of the fake accounts.

The council alleged the branch manager facilitated money laundering when she “allowed the opening of the subject bank accounts on 15 May 2015 based on identity documents that were verified to be fictitious.”

“Moreover, verification on the employment offices declared by the four during the account opening revealed that there were no ‘Cruz’ et al that were connected therewith,” read the complaint.

The AMLC said that aside from the fact that Deguito failed to perform her responsibility of verifying the identities of the four depositors within nine months from the time the accounts were opened, she allowed them to withdraw the money stolen from Bangladesh Bank.

Deguito has already denied the allegation in the complaint.

She was prevented from leaving the country last week on the strength of a DOJ lookout bulletin order.

She has also denied approaching Go or offering him P10 million in exchange for keeping his silence.   

PNP offers help to NBI

Meanwhile, the Philippine National Police said it is ready to assist the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) in probing cybercrimes including money laundering.

Sr. Supt. Guillermo Lorenzo Eleazar, PNP-Anti-Cybercrime Group (PNP-ACG) director, gave the commitment yesterday in reaction to the Senate’s launching an investigation into the suspicious withdrawal of $80 million from RCBC.

“That matter is now being investigated by the Anti-Money Laundering Council with the National Bureau of Investigation handling the case but if asked, the PNP-ACG is willing to assist in the ongoing probe,” Eleazar said.

The PNP-ACG is strengthening its anti-cybercrime capabilities as cases of online criminal activites like fraud and theft mount.

Cybercrimes handled by the PNP-ACG include online libel, online threat, identity theft, hacking, child pornography, child abuse, ATM/credit card fraud, e-mail phishing, online piracy and illegal recruitment, among others.

Eleazer noted cyrbercrimes handled by the PNP-ACG rose from 150 in 2013 to 544 in 2014.

“We recognize the efforts of our personnel and the contributions of our stakeholders in accomplishing our mission,” he said.

He pointed out that cyberspace has given criminals a global stomping ground where they can pursue their nefarious activities in relative anonymity.

“We need to create awareness among cyberspace stakeholders on the adverse economic effects of cybercrime and, more importantly, on how they can protect themselves from this growing menace,” Eleazar said.

The PNP-ACG is discussing ways to expand the involvement of the community, other law enforcement agencies, the information technology sector, the media and legal practitioners in fighting cybercrime.  – Jaime Laude

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