Following Thursday’s closed door testimony of Maia Deguito, it does not appear to Senate blue ribbon committee chair Teofisto Guingona III that she is the “most guilty” of the US$81 million fund heist.
The Senator concludes that more officials of the Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation (RCBC) have to be summoned to get to the bottom of how the money stolen from Bangladesh ended up with the bank.
“As of now, Deguito is not the most guilty (based on) what she testified in the executive session, but there are bigger persons behind this whole thing, and names are coming out already,” he said when interviewed by interasyon.com.
In Bangladesh, the finance minister, AMA Muhith, told Prothom Alo that the Bangladesh Bank officials definitely have complicity with the scheme that involved multinational players.
So far, mainly Deguito, the manager of the RCBC Jupiter Makati branch, came to the limelight as the stolen money was channeled through this branch and landed into Filipino casinos.
Asked to elaborate on his statement that higher ranking bank officers than Deguito were involved in the scam, Guingona acknowledged “allegations to that (effect), but it might be premature to say that since there is still no concrete proof that RCBC officials were involved.”
A day after Thursday’s Senate hearing, Representative Terry Ridon sought a parallel congressional probe into the $81 million dollars hacked and stolen from the Bangladesh Bank to determine whether there is a cover-up between government agencies, bank executives and casino operators in pinning the blame on branch-level personnel.
In a statement, Ridon echoed the concerns raised by Bangladesh ambassador to the Philippines John Gomes saying that he felt there was a cover-up by higher authorities.
“I feel, as an outsider, there was a cover-up. You can understand whenever the relevant questions being asked by the senators to the RCBC management, Mr. Lorenzo (Tan) was also there, invoking the bank secrecy act… They could not get anything out of Mr. Lorenzo,” ambassador Gomes said during the hearing.
He told the Senate committee: “I don’t believe a manager of any bank in the world could handle millions of dollars which suddenly appeared in some accounts, which now they say are fictitious accounts… I don’t think, anywhere in the world, the CEO or a president of bank would allow a manager to deal with huge amounts.”
Representative Ridon, a lawyer, said that despite the flat denial of businessman William Go of his non-ownership of an RCBC account in the center of the money laundering inquiry, Go has not surmounted the presumption that he indeed had given authority for the opening of the subject account and given orders of withdrawal.
“It is amusing that Mr. Go and everyone else are pinning the blame on Ms Deguito when in fact all that she did was follow orders from her executives and her supposed valued clients in these particular transactions,” said Ridon.
However, Guingona, in his interview after the hearing, said, Kim Wong, who Deguito said referred to her the persons who opened the accounts through which the money passed under the apparently fictitious names of Michael Cruz, Jessie Lagrosas, Alfred Vergara, and Enrico Vasquez, “came out prominently.”
A money laundering complaint has been filed with the justice department against Deguito and the four “John Does.”
Deguito earlier said Wong was a friend of RCBC president and CEO Lorenzo Tan. Tan has denied this.
Nevertheless, Guingona said the names of two “senior executives” of the bank were mentioned during the executive session.
And, he added, he would not conclude that Tan is off the hook.
Guingona also said Deguito mentioned the names belonging to what was described as a Filipino “syndicate” linked to the heist, including the “prime mover.”
“At least we know, according to her story, (although) we have to vet it with other testimonies, we know now … it seems that she was just used and there is a prime mover for all of this,” Guingona said.
“It has to be a syndicate. Obviously this is a syndicate, one person alone cannot do this,” he stressed even as he refused to say if any of the members of the supposed ring operated within RCBC.
But he confirmed that they were all Filipinos.
All in all, what are believed to be hackers attempted to steal $1 billion from Bangladesh Bank’s account in the Federal Reserve Bank in New York but managed to skim off the $81 million that ended up in the Philippines after a typographical error ended further transfers.- Agencies