Ex-bank exec key to unlocking Napoles’ deals

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Janet Lim-Napoles. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines—A former bank manager who became the “auditor” and business partner of Janet Lim-Napoles could be the key to unlocking myriad bank and financial transactions of the detained businesswoman allegedly behind the P10-billion pork barrel scam.

Whistle-blowers Benhur Luy, his mother Gertrudes and sister Annabelle, and Merlina P. Suñas have tagged Ma. Winnie Villanueva as having played a central role in putting together the web of multimillion-peso transactions that allowed corrupt senators and congressmen to appropriate for themselves at least half of their Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) allocations using dummy nongovernment organizations (NGOs) controlled by Napoles.

 

Tracks inflows and outflows

“Accounts were opened or maintained in the branch where the manager is Ms Winnie Villanueva, who is a very close friend of JLN (Janet Lim-Napoles) and who, upon retirement from Metrobank, became JLN’s official auditor who reviews the financial reports that (Benhur Luy) prepares for JLN,” the whistle-blowers said in a joint affidavit they submitted to the National Bureau of Investigation.

The Court of Appeals issued a freeze order last month on 344 bank accounts, 66 insurance policies, and five credit card accounts of Napoles, her relatives, her cohorts and her fake NGO empire on the recommendation of the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC).

While Luy served as Napoles’ bookkeeper for the transactions involving her bogus NGOs, Villanueva was responsible for tracking the inflow and outflow of Napoles’ personal fortune.

NGO chief of staff

Villanueva, who retired from Metrobank in 2010, was also a stockholder and an incorporator of a Napoles NGO—the Manila Foundation Inc. (MFI).

Based on its incorporation papers filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, MFI’s main purpose was to “undertake social development activities and initiatives which will spur the growth of rural and microfinancing activities countrywide in line with the Anti-poverty Alleviation Act.”

Villanueva, who contributed P100,000 to MFI’s initial capital of P1 million, is the NGO’s chief of staff.

The other shareholders in the NGO, aside from Villanueva, are Federico Egera, Karen Antonette Castillo, Liza Ong, Eleazar Panlilio, Manuel Lim, Deborah Singson, Catalina Cruz and Evelyn de Leon. The latter is Napoles’ most senior employee and president of the very first NGO that Napoles formed, the Philipine Social Development Foundation Inc.

MFI, whose office is listed as Unit 809 555 Gen. Malvar Malate, Manila, can “acquire loans and other financial accomodations from government and private institutions in order to finance productive economic and government activities,” according to the incorporation papers.

It can also receive grants, donations, contributions, legacies, financial assistance and loans from “whatever sources” to carry out its mandate to provide technical and financial assistance for project planning development and execution as well as coordinate with government agencies in delivery of public services.

 

Clearinghouse accounts

In an earlier interview, Luy said that Villanueva personally took care of creating the bank accounts that served as the clearinghouse in getting the pork funds transferred to Napoles’ NGOs as well as the kickbacks transferred to the bank accounts of representatives (the senators’ kickbacks were delivered in cash to their residences).

Luy said that Villanueva also made sure that other bank managers from other branches would treat Napoles as a prime client.

Luy said the lawmakers and their senior staff would be made to sign papers addressed to the bank managers attesting to their receipt of their share of the pork funds. This was to help Napoles keep track of her payments to dozens of lawmakers from the hundreds of livelihood projects supposedly implemented by 20 NGOs under her wing, he said.

In their joint affidavit, the whistle-blowers revealed that in one of the Metrobank accounts handled by Villanueva for Napoles, the alleged mastermind made 18 transactions in a period of five days worth a combined total of P60 million, transferring funds between the fake NGOs and Napoles’ personal bank accounts.

The whistle-blowers also claimed that Villanueva managed the various time deposit accounts of Napoles in Metrobank with one account amounting to P200 million.

Know-your-client rule

During a hearing of the Senate blue ribbon inquiry into the scam last Thursday, Sen. Francis Escudero moved for the panel to invite the manager of the bank where, Luy said, Napoles was able to make withdrawals of up to P75 million in one day.

Luy told Escudero these massive withdrawals were made at the Metrobank branch on Magdalena St. in Binondo, Manila.

Escudero said he wanted the Magdalena branch bank manager invited for one simple reason—“the BSP (Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas) is implementing a know-your-client rule among banks.”

“Surely, this must have raised a red flag, the withdrawal of P75 million from one branch. If the manager knew the business that the account holder was involved in, he or she would have reported that to the AMLC right there and then,” Escudero said. With a report from Norman Bordadora


Related Story:

Janet Lim-Napoles and the pork barrel scam

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