CA junks convicted bank exec’s appeal over $81-M bank heist

The Court of Appeals has affirmed the conviction of a former bank executive for money laundering in connection with the 2016 Bangladesh Bank heist.

The CA’s First Division, in its 58-page decision dated Feb. 6, and made available online recently has affirmed the Makati Regional Trial Court Branch 149 decision finding Maia Santos-Deguito guilty of eight counts of violation of Republic Act 9160 (Anti Money Laundering Act) and sentencing her to up to 58 years in prison.

“Enhanced due diligence is the examination of the background and purpose of all complex, unusually large transactions, all unusual patterns of transactions, which have no apparent economic or lawful purpose, and other transactions that may be considered suspicious. Apart from her uncorroborated claims, there is nothing on record to prove that Deguito exercised even the slightest form of diligence,” the court said in dismissing Deguito’s appeal.

“Deguito cannot feign ignorance of the blatant irregularities in the inward remittances credited to the Jupiter accounts, and pretend as if her hands were tied that she cannot do anything to rectify them,” the tribunal added.

The amount involved a portion of the online heist on the Bangladesh Bank on Feb. 4, 2016 where online fraudsters used unauthorized SWIFT (Society of Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications) payment instructions (PI) to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York where the Bangladesh Bank kept its foreign currency funds to move funds.

Out of 35 such PIs, only five involving a total of USD101 million were cleared by SWIFT — USD20 million was traced in Sri Lanka while the remaining $81 million found its way to the Philippines.

The payment for one of the PIs was blocked due to a discrepancy in the recipient beneficiary’s name in Sri Lanka.

The four PIs which did proceed went to four hastily created Philippine bank accounts in RCBC’s Jupiter Bank where Deguito was manager at the time.

Deguito confirmed that rules were bent in the opening of the accounts which she claimed was vetted for by a client of the bank, Kim Wong, whom she knew personally.

“The haste by which Deguito transacted the subject funds indicates her intention to speedily move the same. And what is even more glaring the owner of the Jupiter accounts were not present in RCBC Jupiter when the withdrawals were made,” the tribunal said in denying Deguito’s appeal.

Source: Philippines News Agency