Money laundering decision vs. RCBC exec to help in funds recovery

By Joann Villanueva

January 11, 2019, 8:10 am

MANILA -- The conviction of a former Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation (RCBC) official for money laundering, in relation to the USD81 million stolen funds of Bangladesh Bank, part of which ended in casinos operating in the Philippines, will indirectly help in the recovery of the remaining funds.

Makati Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 149 on Thursday found guilty for money laundering former RCBC Jupiter, Makati branch manager Maia Deguito, who was sentenced to 4 to 7 years of prison each for 8 counts of money laundering.

In a statement, the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) clarified that Deguito’s conviction “is entirely separate from recovery efforts.”

However, it noted that “Deguito’s conviction only helps the retrieval indirectly by bolstering the civil forfeiture (CF) cases through which recovery efforts are coursed.”

It explained that, to date, CF cases have been filed against Eastern Leisure Hawaii Company owner Kam Sin Wong, also known as Kim Wong, and Philrem Service Corporation owners Michael and Salud Bautista, whose company was tapped to remit the funds to Wong’s casino.

“Both cases are pending before the Regional Trial Courts,” the AMLC statement said, adding that “a petition for review has also been made before the Supreme Court, contesting the lifting of the freeze order on the bank account of Bloomberry Resorts and Hotels, Inc. (Solaire Resort and Casino).”

The case started when the BB funds were stolen from its account with the Federal Reserve of New York on February 4, 2016, which is considered one of the biggest cyber-heists in the world.

The funds were transferred to four US dollar accounts that were opened at the RCBC Jupiter branch in May 2015 under the names of Michael F. Cruz, Jessie Christopher M. Lagrosas, Alfred S. Vergara, and Enrico T. Vasquez

Part of the stolen money was eventually traced to Wong, who later on returned a total of USD4.63 million and PHP488 million worth of cash to the AMLC. (PNA)