What went before: $81-million Bangladesh bank cyberheist
In September 2017, former Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. (RCBC) branch manager Maia Deguito was left to face trial alone for the $81-million cyberheist on Bangladesh Bank after the Department of Justice (DOJ) dropped the complaints against all her coaccused.
Deguito was the manager of RCBC’s Jupiter Street branch in Makati City, which held the fake bank accounts where the stolen money from the Bangladesh central bank was deposited.
In February 2016, the yet-to-be-identified hackers initiated fake transfer orders that sought to move nearly $1 billion from Bangladesh Bank’s New York Fed account, mostly to accounts at RCBC.
The money was channeled to a foreign exchange dealer, Philrem Service Corp., and transferred to accounts at other banks and to local casinos before being moved out of the country.
Philrem was among those accused of money laundering but was cleared by prosecutors.
During a Senate investigation in April 2016, Deguito claimed she was acting on orders of top RCBC officials to facilitate the transaction, specifically its then president Lorenzo Tan and treasurer Raul Tan, both of whom have since left the bank.
RCBC was fined a record P1 billion by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas in August that year for failure to prevent the movement of the stolen money through its system, while a top Bangladeshi investigator said he suspected some IT technicians from the Dhaka-based bank helped the hackers carry out the heist.
During the Senate probe, casino junket operator Kim Wong accused Philrem of holding on to $17 million of the missing Bangladeshi funds. To this day, those funds have remained unaccounted for.
Wong was initially included in the money laundering complaint, but he was also cleared by the DOJ following his Senate testimony and his return of $4.6 million and P450 million in cash.
The money, Wong said, was brought in by a gaming client without informing him that the cash was obtained through illegal means.
The Bangladesh central bank has been able to retrieve only about $15 million of the money stolen, mostly from Wong.
SOURCE: INQUIRER ARCHIVES
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