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AMLC files money laundering complaint vs PhilRem

/ 03:46 PM April 28, 2016
Philrem Bautista

Salud and Michael Bautista with William So Go at the Senate hearing April 5, 2016 on the $81M stolen funds from the Bangladesh Bank and was deposited to accounts in RCBC. LYN RILLON/INQUIRER

The Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) on Thursday filed before the Department of Justice (DOJ) a money laundering complaint against PhilRem Service Corporation, the money remittance firm at the center of a controversial scheme involving some $81 million taken by hackers from an account of the Bangladeshi Bank in February this year.

Facing a complaint for violation of the Anti-Money Laundering Act, specifically Sections 4(a), (b) and (f), are top officials of PhilRem, namely Salud Bautista, president; Michael “Concon” Bautista, chairman of the board and treasurer; and Anthony Pelejo, PhilRem’s anti-money laundering compliance officer.

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Sections 4 (a), (b) and (f) refer to money laundering acts, including transacting the monetary instrument or property, converts, transfers, disposes of, moves, acquires, possesses or uses said monetary instrument or property and performs, or fails to perform, any act as a result of which he or she facilitated the money laundering offense.

AMLC said that the unauthorized access to Bangladesh Bank’s system amounts to “hacking” or “cracking,” which is punishable under Section 33 (a) of the Electronic Commerce Act.

Based on an investigation  by AMLC, the stolen funds were credited to the fictitious bank accounts of Michael Cruz, Jessie Christopher Lagrosas, Alfred Vergara, and Enrico Vasquez, which were all opened on May 15, 2015 at the Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation (RCBC) Jupiter, Makati Branch.

Also, AMLC said the dollar and peso accounts under the name of “William So Go” doing business as Centurytex Trading, which were opened February 5, 2016 and July 30, 2014, respectively, are also fictitious.

Of the stolen funds, $65,668,664.37  withdrawn from the accounts of Cruz, Lagrosas, Vergara and Vasquez were transferred to Go and eventually to PhilRem.

According to AMLC, of the $65-million that was transferred to Go, $13-million was transferred to the RCBC account of Abba Currency Exchange Inc. (Abba) on Feb. 9, 2016. That same date, $3,230,000.00 was transferred from the Abba account to the RCBC account of Beacon Currency Exchange Inc. (Beacon).

On Feb. 5, 9 and 10, 2016, the balance of $52,668,664.37 was transferred from the RCBC account of Go to the RCBC-Unimart Greenhills account of PhilRem. At the same time, $15-million from Vasquez’ account was also transferred to PhilRem’s account.

Both Abba and Beacon also transferred a total of $13-million to PhilRem’s RCBC account in Pasig.

AMLC said Pelejo submitted a Suspicious Transaction Report (STR) to AMLC. Under the STR, PhilRem said the transactions made were upon the instructions of “Go” but during the Senate investigation, Salud said the transactions were made upon the instructions of former RCBC Jupiter branch manager Maia Deguito.

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AMLC said it is highly irregular that PhilRem would deal with Deguito and not the owner of the “Go” account.

“The foregoing circumstances clearly show that respondent spouses were aware that the funds were not legitimate when they deliberately ignored the AMLA requirements…Had they done so, respondent spouses would have personally interviewed the real William Go and discover that that the latter was not aware of the existence of the RCBC Account Nos. 9016455240 and 9010270206,” AMLC said.

“Worse, respondent spouses converted and transacted the stolen funds with another fictitious account: Centurytex,” the complaint stated.

“Philrem acting as a remittance agent actually commingled the funds and acted as a ‘cleaning house.’ Philrem’s role was to make it extremely difficult to trace the source and flow of the funds by avoiding all anti-money laundering measures set by laws and regulations. The participation of Philrem is really to ‘wash’ the funds and conceal the money trail,” AMLC added in its complaint. JE/rga

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TAGS: AMLC, Anti-Money Laundering Council, Philrem Service Corporation, RCBC, Remittance, Salud Bautista
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