CA junks appeal of ex-bank manager over US$81-million bank heist
MANILA, Philippines — The Court of Appeals upheld the Makati City Regional Trial Court’s money laundering conviction of a former bank manager over the $81 million stolen by hackers from the Bangladesh Bank in 2016.
Under the Anti-Money Laundering Law, it is committed through facilitation with the following elements; 1. the offender knows that any monetary instrument or property is the proceeds of any unlawful activity; 2. the offender performed or failed to perform any act leading to the facilitation of the money laundering offense, and 3. the offender transacts said monetary instrument or property.
In a 58-page ruling, the CA First Division said all the elements are present in the case of Maia Santos Deguito.
Reiterating the lower court’s ruling, the CA said Deguito could not downplay her part, saying that the unauthorized payment was made only nine months after she assisted in the opening of accounts at her branch.
“It was actually the opening of the accounts that set the wheels in motion,” the CA said, adding that one of Deguito’s major responsibilities is screening transactions in accordance with the AMLA guidelines.
“With Deguito’s 16 years of experience in the banking industry, she cannot feign ignorance of the basic provisions of the AMLA and the RCBCs Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing Prevention Program (MLPP),” the court said.
While it is true that her involvement was limited to the opening of the bank accounts, the CA said, “she actually performed significant acts to arrive at the intended conclusion, which is the movement of funds derived from the hacking incident.”
The CA noted that the opening of the accounts used for the Bank of Bangladesh heist was facilitated by Deguito.
“She allowed the opening of the Jupiter Accounts based on identification documents that were verified to be fictitious. She did not personally witness the alleged clients in filling out the forms and in signing the Customer Relationship Forms and signature cards, violating the face-to-face policy of the AMLA regulations,” the CA said.
The CA also dismissed Deguito’s allegation that the Makati judge was biased against her for asking her 340 questions during her cross-examination compared to 143 questions asked to the prosecution.
“The mere imputation of bias, partiality, and prejudgment will not suffice in the absence of clear and convincing evidence to overcome the presumption that the judge will undertake his noble role to dispense justice according to law and evidence and without fear or favor” the CA added.
The decision is written by Associate Justice Raymond Reynold Lauigan and concurred in by Presiding Justice Remedios Salazar-Fernando and Associate Justice Pablito Perez.
The Bank of Bangladesh lost US$101 million from a software attack. The $81 million of the siphoned money found its way to the Philippines, while US$ 20 million was traced in Sri Lanka.
The Bangladesh government is still struggling for the return of the whole amount.
Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla has been meeting with Bangladeshi Ambassador to the Philippines Borhan Uddin, for assistance.