PhilRem owners no-show in last Senate hearing on bank heist

Chrisee Dela Paz
PhilRem owners no-show in last Senate hearing on bank heist

Alecs Ongcal

'PhilRem has the lowest credibility among them all. They are consistently inconsistent,' says Senator Guingona as the blue ribbon committee wraps up its probe

MANILA, Philippines – The owners of PhilRem Service Corporation – dubbed the “cleaning house” in the $81-million Bangladesh Bank fund heist – did not show up during the last Senate probe into the money-laundering case.

Senator Teofisto “TG” Guingona III, who chairs the Senate blue ribbon committee, said PhilRem executives – the husband-and-wife tandem of Michael and Salud Bautista – were a no-show during the 7th Senate hearing on Thursday, May 19.

“They did not show up. They sent a letter, asking for understanding since a criminal case was filed against them. But at any rate, we have enough material already,” Guingona said on the sidelines of the hearing.

The Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) filed money laundering complaints against the Bautistas on April 28 for failing to file covered transaction reports and deliberately ignoring requirements to know the customer and record customer information.

This is in addition to the P35.61-million tax evasion complaint filed by the Bureau of Internal Revenue on April 21.

Others who are also facing criminal and civil complaints but were present during the last hearing include businessman William Go, casino junket agent Kim Wong, and sacked Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation (RCBC) branch manager Maia Santos-Deguito.

The laundering of the stolen funds from the account of Bangladesh Bank in New York was done through the money transfer services of PhilRem via RCBC.

From the fake RCBC accounts, it was into casinos that PhilRem moved the stolen funds, delivering most of it in cold cash.

‘Least credible of them all’

Although PhilRem treasurer Bautista told the senators of his firm’s “flawless, spotless” reputation, Guingona said he does not fully believe PhilRem’s version of the $81-million bank heist story.

“PhilRem has the lowest credibility among them all,” Guingona told reporters. “They are consistently inconsistent.” (READ: Senators note inconsistency in PhilRem’s $81-M bank heist story)

It does not help that the PhilRem owners declined RCBC’s request for them to waive bank secrecy so the bank could disclose their accounts and facilitate the probe.

Guingona added that the Bautistas did not live up to their promise to sign a waiver for the Senate blue ribbon committee to check their phone records and cross examine their testimonies.

“PhilRem, acting as a remittance agent, actually commingled the funds and acted as a cleaning house,” AMLC said in its complaint. 

“PhilRem’s role was to make it extremely difficult to trace the source and flow of the funds by avoiding all anti-money laundering measures set by laws and regulations,” AMLC told the justice department last month. – Rappler.com

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