RCBC manager: ‘I’d rather release money than get myself killed’

Rappler.com
RCBC manager: ‘I’d rather release money than get myself killed’
RCBC branch manager Maia Santos-Deguito defied an order to stop the release of millions of dollars to private accounts, a bank officer testifies at the Senate

MANILA, Philippines – Branch manager Maia Santos-Deguito ignored a request from her own bank to stop the release of millions of dollars to private accounts, telling colleagues she’d rather do it than get herself killed.

Testifying before a Senate committee investigating a bank heist on Thursday, March 17, Romualdo Agarrado, customer service head, recalled the events of February 9, 2016, when the Jupiter-Makati branch of RCBC received a request for “recall of funds” from the main office in relation to the stolen $81 million deposited in various accounts in the branch. (READ: Timeline: Tracing the $81-M stolen fund from Bangladesh Bank)

Agarrado said that Deguito, as branch manager, was aware of the request. He also alerted Deguito about it. “I received the recall of funds [email] in the morning of [February 9] and I told her about it,” Agarrado told the Senate. “She just looked at me and gave me a blank stare,” he said.

Later in the day, Deguito called Agarrado and another bank officer to her office in an apparent attempt to explain her decision to release the money despite the “stop payment” order that they received. 

“I would rather do this than have me killed and my family,” Agarrado quoted Deguito as saying.

Deguito managed to transfer at least $44 million to the dollar account of trader Willam So Go, who on Thursday waived his right to bank secrecy. 

At least P20 million was also withdrawn from Go’s peso account, according to Maria Celia Estavillo, RCBC chief legal counsel. 

The P20 million was then put in Deguito’s car, according to Estavillo, citing the affidavit of bank officers.

Agarrado also recalled that a few days after the withdrawal of the huge sums, he was asked to attend a dinner in the home of one of the bank officers in the posh Forbes Park subdivision.

He was suprised to see Deguito there, who spent time assuring Agarrado and the other bank officers that she can provide them lawyers. 

“When we were inside the room, Maia did all the talking,” Agarrado said. “She said she has lawyers… and that one lawyer suggested to her that we should compute our retirement. Would P5 million be enough?”

Deguito, who also attended the hearing, denied Agarrado’s claims. “I strongly deny everything,” she said, reiterating her request to for the Senate to hold an executive session for her testimony.

Go’s signatures forged

Estavillo said that based on their investigation, Go’s signatures in the Jupiter accounts were forged. “There was a simulated forgery. The bank considers these accounts do not belong to William So Go,” Estavillo said.

It has been over a month since the $81-million fund from Bangladesh Bank‘s account with the Federal Reserve Bank of New York was stolen by hackers and coursed through the Philippines. 

From Go’s account, the alleged stolen funds from Bangladesh Bank were transferred to money transfer company Philrem Services Corporation.

Philrem converted into pesos some of the $81 million and delivered the money in cash tranches to a registered casino junket operator named Weikang Xu, Eastern Hawaii Leisure Company, and Bloomberry Hotels Incorporated (Solaire Resort & Casino). (READ: $81-M bank heist money trail hits dead end in casinos) – Rappler.com

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