RCBC MANAGER IN BANGLADESH BANK HEIST GUILTY OF MONEY LAUNDERING
MANILA -- The Makati City Regional Trial Court (RTC) on Thursday convicted a bank manager of money laundering over the transnational heist involving USD81 million siphoned by hackers from the Bangladesh Bank two years ago.
Former Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. (RCBC) Jupiter, Makati branch manager Maia Santos-Deguito was found guilty of seven counts of money laundering, and is facing a penalty of up to seven years imprisonment for each count. She was also required to pay almost USD110 million.
Deguito, the court ruled, took advantage of her knowledge of the banking law and more than a decade of experience to facilitate the illegal transactions. Witnesses testified that Deguito opened fictitious bank accounts where funds from the Bangladesh Bank were transferred after they were first wired by hackers to New York.
"The accused must be responsible of her executed acts and implemented transactions as charged and described in the subject eight criminal information," the court said.
The court pointed out that in his judicial affidavit, witness Rayhan Uddin Khan, a Bangladeshi police officer, appeared and declared that there were four unauthorized payment instructions sent to RCBC on February 4, 2016. These four illegal messages originated from Bangladesh, then to New York and then to Manila.
Witness Jalal Uddin Fahim, a police officer and IT forensic expert, testified that a banking system called Swift Alliance was in place in Bangladesh Bank and that the Swift System computers were in a restricted area.
He testified that there were malware files introduced to the system in January 2016 and the hacking took place on February 4, 2016. The Bangladesh Bank's computers have anti-virus software but failed to detect the malware.
Andreliza R. Cala of the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) testified that Tax Identification Number used in one of the bogus accounts under the name Jessie Christopher Lagrosas is not listed as a tax account number. The Lagrosas account was opened in May 2015, months ahead of the hacking.
Another witness, Yolanda delos Reyes of the Social Security System (SSS), affirmed that the SSS ID used by the account under the name Alfred S. Vergara was bogus and that no such name or SSS ID number is listed in their database.
The human resources group head of the bank, Rowena F. Subido, testified that Deguito failed to comply with the so-called "Know Your Customer" policy of the bank and said she should not have authorized the creation of unauthorized accounts even without initial deposits.
"She has prior knowledge of these remittances, hence accused Deguito was able to prepare, beforehand, for these remittances in crystal clear violation of the AMLA Law. Accused Deguito has taken advantage of her position in the bank and her banking knowledge and experience, hence accused Deguito was able to execute and implement these illegal transactions with ease," the court added.
The court also noted that Deguito authorized a cash withdrawal from bank account under the fictitious name JC Lagrosas worth USD22.735 million on Feb. 5, 2016 at 3:16 p.m. and deposited to the account of William Go, another fictitious account name, which was opened 16 minutes earlier on the same day. (PNA)
Photo by Erik De Castro/Reuters/Manila Bulletin