MANILA, Philippines – A close friend of the bank head and valued client of Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation (RCBC), a businessman previously linked to illegal drug operations in 2000, and two other new names emerged during the latest probe on the $81-million Bangladesh Bank fund heist drama.
The plot thickens at the Senate investigation into the scandal entered its second day on Thursday, March 17. One of the new personalities allegedly witnessed P20 million or nearly half a million dollars of the stolen money being skimmed off and packed into an RCBC bank manager’s car.
The bulk of the stolen money then went to two casinos and a certain Weikang Xu, who is believed to be a registered junket operator. (READ: How Bangladesh Bank dirty money easily got into PH)
During the Senate blue ribbon committee hearing on Thursday, March 17, new names were mentioned in connection to the elaborately-planned laundering scheme.
Romualdo Agarrado, RCBC Manila reserve officer
Romualdo Agarrado testified on day two of the Senate probe into the $81 million of Bangladesh’s stolen funds.
Formerly a customer service head of RCBC’s Jupiter-Makati Branch, Agarrado is now a reserve officer at RCBC’s Manila office. Testifying before the Senate blue ribbon committee, he accused Deguito of trying to bribe him with P5 million at the Forbes Park home of another bank officer on February 12.
He said the bribe attempt was made more than a week after he witnessed P20 million being withdrawn from the “fake” bank account of William So Go, one of the accounts where the stolen $81 million was deposited.
Agarrado said he saw the money loaded into the car of RCBC Jupiter branch manager Maia Santos-Deguito, who reportedly left with the money.
Agarrado, along with other RCBC top executives, pinned down Deguito for allegedly facilitating the withdrawal of Bangladesh Bank’s stolen money from the fake accounts.
Angela Torres, ex-RCBC Jupiter senior customer relations officer
Angela Torres, the resigned assistant manager of the RCBC branch came to the defense of Deguito. She accused RCBC top officials of harassment in a radio interview late Thursday, March 17.
“Almost all of Mr Agarrado’s statements in the Senate hearing yesterday [Thursday] were lies. The cash was not put in a paper bag, instead it was placed in a box and was loaded into William Go’s Lexus. Agarrado was not telling the truth when he said that the money was loaded into Ms.Maia’s car,” Torres said in an interview with radio dzBB.
RCBC and Agarrado claimed that Torres is lying.
RCBC legal and regulatory affairs head Maria Celia Estavillo told the Senate blue ribbon committee hearing on Thursday, that the bank is set to file perjury charges against Torres for filing a false affidavit on her involvement in the $81-million Bangladesh Bank fund heist.
“We received statements under oath by former RCBC Jupiter customer service head Romualdo Agarrado and RCBC Jupiter SCRO Angela Torres on the transactions made [involving Bangladesh Bank’s stolen money], but Torres voluntarily presented her statement, which we later found out as a lie,” Estavillo said.
According to Agarrado, Torres serves as the “right hand” of Deguito.
Deguito, who is said to be “close with Torres,” said RCBC executives are aware of the transactions linked to the cyber theft.
Jason Go, car dealer
During the Senate hearing, Deguito refused to reveal how she got acquainted with a certain Jason Go, described by RCBC president and CEO Lorenzo Tan as a car trader and a friend.
Senator Teofisto Guingona III, Senate blue ribbon committee chair, said at the hearing he received information that Deguito was assigned to the Jupiter branch because of Go’s recommendation.
Guingona asked Tan how a private individual such as Go was able to influence recruitment inside the bank.
Tan admitted that Go is a “friend” and a “valued client” of RCBC.
RCBC treasurer Raul Tan admitted during the hearing that it was Go who recommended that bank officials assign Deguito as manager of the Jupiter branch instead of the branch in Bonifacio Global City, her original assignment.
But according to Deguito, it was Tan who recruited her to join RCBC in 2013.
While responding to questions on her official relationship with Tan, Deguito said she first met the RCBC CEO in one of the parties hosted by Kim Wong. (READ: RCBC manager: I’d rather release money than get myself killed’)
Wong is a controversial character linked to past scandals and is one of 6 traders being probed for laundering stolen funds.
Tan said he met Wong in 2002 in his restaurant. He also said he has not seen Wong “in more than 10 years.”
But Deguito said Wong and Tan were both present at Jason Go’s birthday party in the last quarter of 2014.
Wong’s name first cropped up during the Estrada administration, when military intelligence tagged him as a drug lord. Under the Arroyo government, former intelligence chief Victor Corpus linked Wong to then Senator Panfilo Lacson.
Wong was unable to attend the Senate hearings as he is undergoing medical treatment in Singapore. (READ: $81-M bank heist money trail hits dead end in casinos)
The Senate blue ribbon committee will conduct its third hearing on the multi-million-dollar money-laundering case on March 29, after Wong returns from Singapore. – Rappler.com
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