MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The Makati Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 149 on Thursday, January 10, found former bank manager Maia Deguito guilty of money laundering over the 2016 Bangladesh Bank heist, sentencing her to 4 to 7 years in prison for each of the 8 counts.
“Wherefore, premises considered, this court hereby finds accused Maia Santos-Deguito guilty beyond reasonable doubt, hence this court hereby imposes penalty of imprisonment and fines,” Judge Cesar Untalan said in his verdict promulgated on Thursday.
Deguito was also ordered to pay $109 million in penalties.
Since money laundering is a bailable offense, Deguito will enjoy provisional liberty as she appeals her conviction all the way to the Supreme Court.
Deguito’s lawyer Demetrio Custodio claimed his client could not be made to pay the fines because the stolen money did not go to her.
“Because the amounts allegedly taken has been credited to the account of William Go, my client Maia will not be forced to turn over the amount,” Custodio said.
The wording of Untalan’s decision pinned down Deguito for having knowledge of the illegal transfer of the stolen money, but did not explicitly say that the money went to her.
“Therefore, this court, then and now, hereby concludes with certainty that accused Deguito had not only facilitated these subject illegal bank transactions; but accused Deguito had coordinated and corroborated to the execution and implementation of these illegal bank transactions for an easy and prompt execution for credit and transfer to the account of Mr William Go, disregarding and putting aside any obstacles and distraction including that stop payment instruction,” said Untalan.
Custodio said the court did not have jurisdiction to seize the amount.
“There is no forfeiture here because the amounts have not been subject to the jurisdiction to the court, the person called William Go has not been made party to this case, so he will not be made to account for the amounts taken from Bangladesh,” the lawyer said.
Deguito refused to make a statement.
The owners of the bank accounts – some said to bear fictitious names – where the stolen money was deposited remained at large.
Bangladesh ambassador to the Philippines Asad Alam Siam told reporters they hoped for the speedy resolution of the cases against other RCBC officials pending before the Department of Justice.
Deguito was a branch manager of the Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation (RCBC), which figured in a bank heist in 2016 that attracted international attention.
She was implicated in the $81-million Bangladesh Bank heist that saw stolen funds end up in the Philippines.
In 2017, the Department of Justice (DOJ) cleared executives of money transfer firm Philrem Service Corporation in the indictment, leaving Deguito to face the charges.
The case involved hacking Bangladesh Bank, the central bank of Bangladesh. The stolen funds were converted to Philippine pesos and distributed to junket operators and casinos. (READ: How Bangladesh Bank dirty money easily got into PH)
The money was deposited to foreign currency accounts of RCBC, which passed it on to Philrem for conversion and distribution.
The stolen funds were deposited to the account of William So Go of DBA Centurytex Trading, opened on the same day of the deposits. (READ: Bank heist probe: Questions, contradictions hound Philrem) – Rappler.com