THE Regional Trial Court (RTC) in Makati City on Thursday declared that former Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. (RCBC) Branch Manager Maia Santos-Deguito is guilty of seven counts of money laundering in connection with her involvement in the laundering of $81 million stolen by hackers from the Bangladesh Bank 2016.
In its 25-page decision, Makati RTC Branch 149 Presiding Judge Cesar Untalan imposed a penalty of up to seven years of imprisonment for each count against Deguito.
'Accused Deguito has indeed violated the [Amla] law with complete knowledge and awareness of the consequences of the transactions she had executed and transacted. She implemented, executed and transacted all these deposits and withdrawals involving huge and big amounts in United States dollars within a time frame of less than two hours,' the trial court pointed out.
'That period of time was good enough and sufficient for accused Deguito to inquire the legality of these $81.0-million remittance; but she did not for reason only known to her. Moreover, there were enough good reasons for accused Deguito not to transact and implement these remittances…,' it added.
Aside from the prison term, Deguito was ordered to pay a fine corresponding to not more than 200 percent of the value of the laundered money which would amount to almost $110 million.
The court said Deguito's claim that she has nothing to do with the transactions was 'a complete lie.'
In convicting Deguito, the court gave weight to the testimony of Anti-Money Laundering Council secretariat officer Rafael Echaluse who investigated the case.
Echaluse claimed that Deguito, who was then the RCBC-Jupiter branch manager, facilitated the opening of several fictitious accounts where the stolen money from Bangladesh were deposited.
It was also Deguito who facilitated the withdrawals of the money from the said accounts to the dollar accounts of businessman William Go.
Go has denied opening a dollar account at RCBC and accused Deguito of opening the accounts without his knowledge.
Echaluse declared that all the Jupiter accounts were opened and used as tools to receive and transfer the proceeds of the unauthorized remittances of more or less $81 million from Bangladesh Bank.
'She said there was an instruction of her higher officers of the bank…what she [have done] to shield herself from such violation, by simply, making inquiry of the source of these remittances of such huge and big amounts in United States dollars! Accused did nothing to protect herself; but rather she proceeded in implementing these covered transactions with gusto, hence she must be made available for violation of the Amla law,' the court ruled.
The trial court pointed out that with her 16 years of experience in the banking industry, Deguito has full knowledge of the provisions of the Amla law, thus, she must be responsible for her acts and implemented transactions.
'Furthermore, as an experienced banker…Deguito with 16 good years in the banking industry, must know and realized that the amounts by themselves are sufficient and good reason for accused Deguito to pause and stop and think there is something wrong with these remittances,' it added.
The court also found it 'unbelievable' Deguito's claim that she has no authority to hold the said deposits coming from and sourced from foreign remittances considering that the benchmark for violation of the Amla law is only P500,000.
'She has prior knowledge of these remittances, hence, accused Deguito was able to prepare, beforehand, for these remittances in crystal clear violation of the Amla law. Accused Deguito has taken advantage of her position in the bank and her banking knowledge and experience, hence accused Deguito was able to execute and implement these illegal transactions with ease,' the court observed.
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