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Money-laundering scandal prompts calls for reforms

31 March 2016

Maia Santos-Deguito, the manager of the bank’s Jupiter Branch where the money transactions were processed, testifies before the Senate.

The money-laundering scandal that saw $81 million in stolen funds disappear after passing through accounts at Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation (RCBC) has rocked the financial sector amid fears that remittances to the country would become restricted.
At RCBC, its president Lorenzo Tan has gone on leave as the bank tries to come to terms with its involvement in the heist. The bank has fired Maia Santos-Deguito, the manager of the bank’s Jupiter Branch where the money transactions were processed, and her assistant, Angela Torres, for falsification of commercial documents and breach of policies to facilitate the laundering of $81 million in stolen money.
“Other branch and bank officials are expected to be meted out various sanctions ranging from termination to suspension in the coming days when internal investigation is expected to be completed,” the bank said.
The transaction, discovered in February, was part of a plot to steal US$1 billion from Bangladesh Bank, the central bank of Bangladesh, from its account at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
A US$850-870 million transfer was prevented by the banking system but four requests by the hackers were granted; $81 million was transferred to the Philippines on February 5. The money was later transferred to Hong Kong. Another request to transfer $20 million to Sri Lanka was granted.
The Senate has started an investigation into what was considered as the biggest bank heist in recent history by hackers reportedly from China, and this could lead to reforms in the money laundering law, such as including casinos and real estate agents under the watch of the Philippine Anti-Money Laundering Council.
Senator Aquilino Pimentel 3rd said Deguito “is a potential state witness against some people who are more guilty.” Deguito has claimed that businessman William So Go demanded 10 percent of the stolen  $81 million.
Sen. Sergio Osmena, chairman of the Senate committee on banks, said Deguito told senators Wong asked her to open the bank accounts where the $81 million was wired, with the instruction to use the services of foreign exchange remittance company Philrem Services Inc.
 AMLC has filed money-laundering charges against businessmen Kam Sin Wong, a.k.a. Kim Wong, and Weikang Xu before the Department of Justice.
Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Governor Amando Tetangco Jr., who heads AMLAC, has vowed to make the Philippines “inhospitable” to money launderers and other groups specializing in financial fraud.

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