AMLC cleared withdrawal from Napoles account, UCPB clarifies
MANILA, Philippines–The United Coconut Planters Bank (UCPB) on Thursday said the withdrawal it recently made from a supposedly frozen account of a company of alleged scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles was aboveboard as the account was not covered by any freeze order at the time and that it had clearance to do so from the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC).
This developed as the UCPB was ordered by a Manila court on Wednesday to explain how it was able to withdraw P40 million from an account in the bank in the name of a Napoles company, First Integrated Bonding and Insurance Co. (Fibico), that was supposedly covered by a Court of Appeals freeze order.
The UCPB action came to light at a hearing in Manila Regional Trial Court last Wednesday on a civil forfeiture case that the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) had filed to recover money and assets, in this case those of Napoles, believed to have been obtained from stolen pork barrel funds.
During the hearing, a UCPB lawyer told the court that P40 million had been withdrawn from the Fibico account that had total deposits of P46.995 million.
In a statement on Thursday, the UCPB claimed that the withdrawal of P40 million had been cleared by the AMLC—the government’s financial intelligence agency that runs after money launderers—which had asked the appellate court to freeze the account in the first place.
“First, the bank wants to clarify that the transactions were made after UCPB received clearance from the AMLC,” UCPB said.
It said the money that was withdrawn from the account rightfully belonged to UCPB as P39.7 million of the P40 million was applied to the payment of Fibico’s back-to-back loans with the bank.
It said the transaction was cleared by the AMLC in a letter dated May 7, which was in response to a letter from the UCPB dated April 7. The bank had written seeking guidance from the AMLC on the accounts covered by the Court of Appeals freeze order but not by thefirst provisional asset preservation order (Papo) and the asset preservation order (Apo).
According to the UCPB, the AMLC had replied that “save for the accounts covered by the Papo and Apo issued in the forfeiture case, the effects of the freeze order can now be lifted with respect to the frozen accounts.”
The UCPB claimed that Fibico was not covered by either Papo or Apo.
The appellate court freeze order on the Fibico account had expired on May 8. In the meantime, the OSG had filed the civil forefeiture case with the Manila regional trial court to recover the money and assets believed to have been sourced from the stolen congressional pork barrel funds. The Fibico account was one of those listed among the accounts that the government wanted to recover. Accordingly, the judge issued a Papo on June 6 to prevent withdrawals from the accounts.–Paolo G. Montecillo