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DOJ files money laundering cases vs RCBC execs

MANILA, Philippines – Five officials of the Yuchengco-owned Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation (RCBC) were slapped with money laundering charges by the Department of Justice (DOJ) over their alleged involvement in the $81-million Bangladesh Bank heist in 2016.

The DOJ found reason to believe that Raul Victor Tan, Ismael Reyes, Brigitte Capiña, Romualdo Agarrado, and Angela Ruth Torres had knowledge and conspired to channel funds to fictitious dollar accounts maintained at RCBC's Jupiter branch in Makati City.

Their alleged actions, the state prosecutor said, resulted in the hacking of the Bangladesh Bank's system.

Tan, who was head of treasury and member of the senior management and anti-money laundering committee of RCBC, allegedly ordered the lifting of the "hold" status of the fictitious accounts without escalating the matter to other members and without conducting due diligence.

Meanwile, Reyes, who was the national sales director of the bank and was tasked to monitor compliance with reportorial requirements, allegedly dispensed with the investigation of the transactions.

The DOJ also found that Capiña, sales director of RCBC's retail banking group and tasked to resolve problems and discuss issues for escalation, failed to conduct enhanced due diligence.

Agarrado was found to have approved large cash withdrawals and transfers from the fictitious dollar accounts.

As for Torres, senior customer relations officer, she processed the withdrawal from the accounts to Philrem Services Corporation and Abba Currency Exchange. 

The case has been filed with Makati City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 141.

In January, Makati City RTC Branch 149 found RCBC branch manager Maia Deguito guilty of 8 counts of money laundering. She was ordered to pay over $100 million and sentenced to up to 7 years in jail. (READ: Ex-RCBC manager Maia Deguito asks Makati court to reverse conviction)

In a statement, RCBC said it is optimistic that the charges against its officers will be dropped.

"We are confident that they will be vindicated since our investigation, conducted by independent third parties, concluded they had no knowledge about the alleged money laundering activity at all," RCBC said.

Of the $81 million stolen from the Bangladesh Bank, only around $15 million has been recovered.

The Bangladesh Bank filed a separate criminal case against RCBC before a court in New York over the heist. RCBC also went on the offensive and filed a defamation case against the Bangladesh Bank.

RCBC's income as of the 1st quarter of 2019 was at a flat P4.9 billion, supported by steady lending across all of its business segments.  

Other than the money laundering controversy, RCBC is also facing a $140-million loan exposure with embattled ship builder Hanjin. The bank has since downplayed the impact of the default. – Rappler.com 

Ralf Rivas

A sociologist by heart, a journalist by profession. Ralf is Rappler's business reporter, covering macroeconomy, government finance, companies, and agriculture.

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