MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The “clear link” between the group that hacked into the Bangladesh Bank account in Manhattan and Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation (RCBC) would be uncovered if bank manager Maia Santos-Deguito is allowed to testify in an executive session, a Senate leader said.
Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto, who made the statement in an interview on radio dzMM, said efforts should focus on tracing the contact of the hackers in RCBC, as he or she holds the key to the $81-million money laundering incident.
At the first Senate hearing on Tuesday, Deguito requested that she testify in an executive session, where she promised to tell all. Senator Teofisto Guingona III, chair of the Senate blue ribbon committee, rejected her request as even Bangladesh Bank did not invoke the Philippines’ bank secrecy law.
But in an interview on dzRH on Wednesday, Guingona said he would discuss Deguito’s request with the other senators at the next Senate hearing scheduled on Thursday, March 17.
Recto said he is backing Deguito’s request. “Her testimony is crucial in identifying all the characters involved in the plot and in connecting the dots to unravel the mystery behind the cyberheist,” he said.
Deguito is the manager of the RCBC Jupiter branch in Makati where fake accounts were opened months ahead in preparation for the money-laundering scheme.
The senator said he would ask for an executive session of the joint committees on blue ribbon and on banks and financial intermediaries, when the hearing resumes on Thursday.
Recto also said while it is clear that Deguito is involved in the transaction, it is “impossible for just one branch manager of a bank to be the mastermind of this crime.”
He said Deguito’s testimony will provide leads on others involved in the money laundering scheme.
“Walang duda na may napakalaking sindikato na sangkot dito. Maliwanag din na may koneksyon ang mga hackers sa bangko at kailangan natin malaman kung sino ang koneksyon nila sa RCBC,” Recto said.
(There’s no doubt that that a huge syndicate is involved here. It’s also clear that there’s the hackers have a connection in the bank. We have to find out their connection in RCBC.)
Deguito had invoked her right against self-incrimination throughout first hearing, as the Anti-Money Laundering Council had charged her and with money laundering in connection with the bank heist.
RCBC president and CEO Lorenzo Tan, who denied involvement in the incident, also invoked the bank secrecy law and his right against self-incrimination at the Tuesday hearing.
During the first hearing, AMLC officials said the non-inclusion of casinos in the scope of the Anti-Money Laundering Act (AMLA) “increased the probability of money laundering in the Philippines.” (READ: $81-M bank heist money trail hits dead end in casinos)
Recto also said that hackers will consider the Philippines a “playground for cybercrimes” if loopholes in the AMLA are not plugged.
Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago said she will ensure the passage of a law that will include casinos in the coverage of the AMLA.
“If the casino sector remains outside of the coverage of AMLA, the Philippines risks becoming the world’s money laundering capital,” the presidential candidate said in a statement.
She said the AMLA amendment is necessary to keep the country from being blacklisted by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), the global body against money laundering and terrorist financing.
Being in the blacklist would cost the country heftier financial transaction fees and stricter measures for international money transactions. – with a report from Patty Pasion/Rappler.com
There are no comments yet. Add your comment to start the conversation.