East-West Bank probes ‘role’ of branch manager in RCBC launder case
MANILA — East West Bank is looking into allegations made by client businessman William Go that one of the bank’s branch managers had tried to entice him with a “P200 million” money-making deal with Maia Santos-Deguito, the Jupiter St.-Makati branch manager of the Rizal Commercial Banking Corp., who is now facing money laundering raps.
Deguito – along with “John Does” who are believed to be using aliases – has been charged by the Anti-Money Laundering Council for alleged involvement in the entry of $81 million in dirty money into RCBC Jupiter branch. The funds, later on found out to be part of money stolen by hackers from the account of the central bank of Bangladesh with the US Federal Reserve, eventually found their way to local casinos and other entities.
Go testified in a Senate hearing on Tuesday that a certain Allan Peñalosa was the one who first invited him to meet with Deguito and asked him if he wanted to earn P200 million. He claimed that Peñalosa had told him that he could not explain it fully and that Deguito would be the one to explain. Based on Go’s account, this was the same meeting where Deguito confessed to opening an account in his name and where the controversial RCBC branch manager offered him P10 million to go with the scheme – an allegation denied by Deguito in earlier interviews.
“We have no knowledge of the alleged involvement of Mr. Allan Peñalosa, store head of East West Bank- Burgos Circle (Bonifacio Global City), in arranging the supposed meeting between Ms. Maia Deguito and Mr. William So Go. Mr. Peñalosa’s alleged involvement with Mr. Go is not related to his functions as an officer of the Bank,” East West Bank said in a press statement on Wednesday.
Nonetheless, the bank said: “We will investigate these reports and shall take the necessary actions in accordance with existing bank policies.”
EWB president Antonio Moncupa Jr. said the bank would bring Peñalosa to Thursday’s (Mar. 17) hearing of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee.
The meeting that Peñalosa allegedly brokered took place on Feb. 23 at the Mary Grace restaurant in Serendra in BGC, Go said. When asked during the hearing what role Peñalosa played in this, Go said: “I have no idea.”
Go’s company Centurytex Trading is a client of the East West Bank, where Deguito used to work before joining RCBC in 2013. He said she previously met Deguito when she was with East West Bank.
The businessman has vehemently denied owning the US dollar account that was opened on Feb. 5, the same day that the $81 million was wired to four suspicious bank accounts at the RCBC Jupiter. It was the same day that the alleged “William Go” account was created and was used to consolidate proceeds from four RCBC bank accounts, hastily withdrawn, converted into pesos and transferred to other banks before the Bank of Bangladesh even realized the breach of its computer system and report the money transfer as “fraudulent.”
Based on documents obtained by the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Go’s testimony at the Senate matched a complaint filed by the businessman the day after the Court of Appeals included him among the six possible co-conspirators to the $81 million money laundering scheme and ordered his accounts frozen.
Apart from East West Bank, Go is an account holder at Banco de Oro Unibank. He also has another company with a corporate peso account at the RCBC’s Trinoma branch.
“On March 2, 2016, Mr. William S. Go, through his lawyers Esguerra & Blanco Law Offices, wrote RCBC that you had met with him on 23 February and admitted to him that you performed acts of falsification of commercial documents when you opened fictitious bank accounts for Centurytex at Jupiter CB without his knowledge and consent and used this account to facilitate the deposit of a big amount of US dollar remittance from Bangladesh and the conversion thereof to Philippine peso. He wrote that you asked help to close these accounts,” according to a show cause order issued by RCBC’s human resource group dated March 2.
In Deguito’s written reply to this show-cause memorandum dated March 7, the branch manager claimed that she had only followed instruction from Go himself to immediately set up a dollar account for Centurytex and to follow instructions to deposit there the funds withdrawn from the other bank accounts.
“In my communications with Mr. Go, he validated that the funds remitted to Mr. Lagrosas (referring to Jessie Christopher Lagrosas who was among those believed by the AMLC to be a fictitious person or an alias for another person) and his partners will indeed be transferred to him as contained in the instructions sent to me,” Deguito said. “Later on, Mr. Go directed me to transact the funds with Philrem as he needed to remit the PH (Philippine) peso equivalent of the funds to his ultimate beneficiaries.”
In the petition filed by AMLC with the DOJ last Friday, investigators claimed that Deguito had known about the inflow from Bangladesh to the suspicious accounts, which the AMLC tagged as ficticious, and facilitated the withdrawal. An internal RCBC report dated March 14 also suggested the same involvement. Go was not among those charged by the AMLC.
Between Feb. 5 and 13, Philrem – claiming to have dealt with the branch manager upon the alleged instruction of “William Go” – converted the money into pesos and transferred the funds in various tranches to the bank accounts of Weikang Xu, identified during the Senate hearing as a Chinese high-roller, as well as two casino operators Eastern Hawaii Leisure Co. and Bloomberry Hotels Inc. (Solaire Resorts).
Eastern Hawaii operates a casino complex at the Cagayan Special Economic Zone. It has been linked by authorities with businessman Kam Sin Wong aka Kim Wong, who has been tagged by the AMLC as a potential conspirator and whose bank accounts has been frozen. Wong is no longer in the country, according to reports. SFM
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