Timeline: $81-M Money Laundering
May 15, 2015. Enrico Teodoro Vasquez, Alfred Santos Vergara, Michael Francisco Cruz and Jessie Christopher Lagrosas open US dollar bank accounts in RCBC with an initial deposit of $500 each. The accounts were untouched until Feb. 4, 2016.
Feb. 4, 2016. Some $81 million worth of funds from the account of Bangladesh Bank (BB), the central bank in Bangladesh, at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York was ordered transferred to four bank accounts in RCBC.
Some $30 million was transferred to Lagrosas, $19.99 million to Vergara, $25 million to Vasquez and $6 million to Cruz.
The amounts were credited to the accounts via straight-through process after the transactions passed internal validation criteria.
On the same day, Lagrosas withdrew $22.73 million and deposited it in the US dollar account of William Go DBA Centurytex Trading, which was opened only on that day.
Feb. 5 to 13. Remittance company Philrem remitted the funds that were converted into pesos in various tranches to the bank accounts of Chinese national Weikang Xu, Eastern Hawaii Leisure Co. and Bloomberry Hotels Inc. (Solaire Resorts).
Feb. 8 (Chinese New Year). BB requested RCBC to stop payment and refund the funds, and if the funds had been transferred, to “freeze or put the funds on hold,” noting that the payment order was fraudulent. However, this was a nonworking holiday in the Philippines.
Feb. 9. RCBC received a Swift message from BB requesting to stop payment and freeze the accounts for proper investigation. However, withdrawals from the accounts totaling $58.15 million had already been processed by the Jupiter Street branch of RCBC. Some $15.2 million was deposited in the account of Philrem, $42.93 million in Go’s dollar account and another $20 million in Philrem.
Swift refers to the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication whose messaging system is commonly used by banks for international transactions.
Feb. 16. BB Governor Atiur Rahman sought the assistance of his Philippine counterpart, Governor Amando Tetangco Jr. of Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, regarding the loss of $81 million from the BB account with the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. The BB said the Feb. 4 Swift payment instructions issued in favor of RCBC were “fraudulent.”
Feb. 19. The Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) starts probe of bank accounts relating to Weikang Xu (believed to be a junket operator), Eastern Hawaii Leisure Co. and Solaire Resorts.
Feb. 29. Inquirer business reporter Daxim Lucas reported that financial regulators were investigating a money-laundering scheme that brought to the country an estimated $100 million stolen by computer hackers from Bangladesh.
March 1. The Court of Appeals, acting on an urgent petition from the AMLC, ordered four banks—RCBC, East West Bank, Banco de Oro and Philippine National Bank—to freeze for six months the bank accounts of Michael Francisco Cruz, Jessie Christopher Lagrosas, Alfred Santos Vergara, Enrico Teodoro Vasquez, William So Go, Centurytex Trading, Kam Sin Wong (aka Kim Wong) and all related accounts.
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