Philrem execs deny involvement in $81M laundering
Top officials of money remittance firm Philrem Service Corp. on Wednesday denied involvement in the laundering of over $81-million funds stolen by hackers from the Bangladesh Bank in February this year.
Philrem president Salud R. Bautista, chairman of the board and treasurer Michael “Concon” Bautista and anti-money laundering compliance officer Anthony Pelejo asked the Department of Justice (DOJ) to dismiss the money laundering complaint filed against them by the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC).
In their affidavit, the Bautistas and Pelejo said that the Suspicious Transaction Report (STR) they have submitted to AMLC has no intention to mislead.
“Our reporting was not attended by malice and we had absolutely no intention to mislead the AMLC or any other person, agency or entity,” they said in their counter-affidavit.
They further claimed that the hacking of the Bangladesh Bank did not occur in the Philippines, thus going against the principle of “territoriality” in the country’s criminal law, meaning the alleged crime should have been committed in the Philippines.
They added that they would never engage in any suspicious activities because as a remittance firm, the most important aspect of their business is a clean reputation and the trust and confidence by their clients.
“Philrem rises or perishes on this trust gained from our clients. A singular act of dishonesty is enough for the business to fail. Therefore, it is of paramount importance that we guard Philrem’s clean name and make sure that it is not involved in any anomalous transaction that will adversely affect its reputation with the customers.”
“Thus, there is absolutely no way Philrem will risk its business by involving itself in a transaction that may lead to a possible prosecution for violation of the Anti-Money Laundering Law,” they added.
Based on the investigation conducted 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) branch on Jupiter Street, Makati City.
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Of the stolen funds, $65, 668,664.37 which was withdrawn from the accounts of Cruz, Lagrosas, Vergara and Vasquez was transferred to Go and eventually to PhilRem.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, the $15 million from Vasquez’s 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.
“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 said in its complaint.
AMLC has been required to submit a reply on July 12.
The council had filed similar charges against former RCBC branch manager Maia Santos-Deguito and four others and casino junket operators Kam Sin Wong alias Kim Wong and Weikang Xu.
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