RCBC chief goes on leave amid Bangladesh bank heist probe

Chrisee Dela Paz
RCBC chief goes on leave amid Bangladesh bank heist probe
(UPDATED) In a public apology, the Yuchengco-led bank says it will 'address any weaknesses in its controls and operations which may have facilitated the scheme'

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation (RCBC) president and CEO Lorenzo Tan has gone on indefinite leave amid the  probe into the $81-million stolen funds from Bangladesh Bank that slipped through one of its branches.

RCBC said in a statement on Wednesday, March 23, that its board has accepted Tan’s second offer to go on leave pending the internal investigation into the money-laundering incident.

“Tan insisted on taking a leave to allow him to focus on clearing his name in the money laundering issue a board committee is investigating. The committee is assisted by SGV auditors and external counsels,” RCBC board said in a statement.

The board had rejected his initial offer to go on leave, saying that its “trust in him is intact and unshaken.” It accepted Tan’s renewed offer nearly two weeks later. (READ: RCBC chief offers to go on leave)

It announced that RCBC chair Helen Y. Dee, the eldest child of taipan Alfonso Yuchengco, will take over in Tan’s absence.

“She will be assisted by a management committee led by Vice Chairman Cesar Virata and Armando Medina,” the board said.

Tan’s lawyer, Francis Lim, said his client asked the RCBC board to let him go on leave earlier this week.

“This was to avoid any perception of any undue influence on his part in the ongoing internal investigation on the matter. It would also give him more time to address baseless personal attacks against him,” Lim said in a statement.

Maia Santos-Deguito, manager of the RCBC branch linked to the money-laundering scheme, had dragged Tan’s name into the issue by connecting Tan to individuals allegedly involved in the heist.

“So far, no evidence has been presented against Tan linking him to the issue and the board has taken cognizance of the statement of Deguito before the Senate that Tan had nothing to do with the opening of the accounts that received the $81-million remittance,” the board said.

Public apology

Following the scandal, RCBC issued a public apology for the alleged involvement of some of its officers in the money-laundering scheme.

“RCBC offers its sincerest apologies for the involvement of its personnel in the money laundering scheme now subject of Senate Blue Ribbon and AMLC (Anti-Money Laundering Council) investigations,” the bank said in a paid advertisement printed in select broadsheets on Wednesday.
 
The Yuchengco-led bank said it will “address any weaknesses in its controls and operations which may have facilitated the scheme.” (READ: RCBC manager: ‘I’d rather release money than get myself killed’)

“Within legal bounds, RCBC will cooperate with these and any subsequent government proceedings….RCBC recognizes the evils wrought by money laundering and will do its utmost in the fight against it,” it said.

RCBC reiterated “it will take appropriate action against any bank officer or staff found guilty of fault or negligence.”

The bank issued the apology a day after it fired Deguito and senior customer relations officer Angela Torres for alleged illegal transactions linked to the heist.

The top two officials of the bank’s Jupiter branch are facing charges”for violating bank policies and procedures and falsification of commercial documents.”

RCBC alleged that the “breaches” in policies and regulations committed by Deguito and Torres “facilitated the alleged laundering of $81 million of remittance that is now being investigated by the Senate and other government agencies.” (READ: 2 more criminal complaints against Deguito, Torres to be filed ‘very soon’)

For Deguito’s part, she accused RCBC of covering up the role of some top executives in the scandal.

Lawyer Ferdie Topacio claimed that his client could not have pulled off the huge scheme without the knowledge of the bank’s top executives.

This was flatly denied by Tan during the first Senate probe hearing.

The Senate blue ribbon committee will conduct its third hearing on the multi-million-dollar money-laundering case on March 29. – Rappler.com

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