Press Release
March 16, 2016

Recto: Hackers-RCBC connection key to money laundering mess

No doubt it's a grand conspiracy, but the Senate needs to uncover the connection between a group of hackers and high officials of the Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation (RCBC) if it wants to solve the $81-million money laundering mystery that rocked the country's banking system.

"Walang duda na may napakalaking sindikato na sangkot dito. Maliwanag din na may koneksyon ang mga hackers sa bangko at kailangan natin malaman kung sino ang koneksyon nila sa RCBC," said Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto in an interview with DZMM today.

Recto backed the request of RCBC branch manager Maia Santos-Deguito for her to testify in an executive session of the Senate blue ribbon committee, saying "her testimony is crucial in identifying all the characters involved in the plot and in connecting the dots to unravel the mystery behind the cyberheist."

Recto said he would ask for an executive session of the joint Committees on Blue Ribbon and on Banks and Financial Intermediaries, when hearing on the cyberheist scandal resumes at 1 p.m. tomorrow (March 17), in order to get all the leads needed in the Senate investigation of the money laundering scam.

"Malinaw na may kinalaman si Deguito sa mga transaksyon. Pero imposible naman na isang branch manager lang ng bangko ang utak sa krimeng ito," the senator stressed.

"Maliwanag na magkakakila ang mga taong sangkot dito. Kahit sa executive session lang, importante na malaman ang partisipasyon nila mula sa mga leads na ibibigay ng branch manager," he added.

Recto admitted that it may be difficult to recover all the money stolen from the Bank of Bangladesh, noting that $66,000 is the only amount left in the Philippine bank after withdrawals from the heist plotters.

What is important, he said, is to bust the syndicate of hackers and bankers involved in the plot and put them behind bars as part of measures to protect the country's banking system from cybercrimes.

According to Recto, the grand conspiracy will be fully established if the Senate panel could follow the paper trail on the following transactions:

  • Entry of stolen money ($81 million) to the Philippines through RCBC under the following four accounts: Enrico Teodoro Vasquez, Alfred Santos Vergara, Michael Francisco Cruz, and Jessie Christopher Lagrosas [of William Go];

  • Transfer of $22.7M from the account of Lagrosas to the account of William Go;

  • Transfer of money to Philrem Service Corp., a remittance company;

  • Conversion by Philrem, of the rest of the amount to Philippine peso through RCBC Treasury;

  • Remittance of the converted cash in Philippine peso to the following: Eastern Hawaii Leisure Corp - $21M, and Bloomberry Hotels, Inc. - $29M; and delivery of converted cash to Wei Kang Xu - $30M.

"Lahat ng nakita natin sa hearing ng Senate kahapon, ipinapakita na may kuntsabahan," Recto said.

What the Senate panel also needs to uncover in future hearings, he said, were the answers to the following questions:

  • Who are the hackers' contact in the RCBC?

  • How was it possible to transfer huge amounts of money in such a short time?

  • Why AMLAC failed to monitor suspicious activity?

"Unless these questions are answered and the loopholes in money laundering are plugged, international hackers may still consider the Philippines as a playground for cybrecrimes," Recto said.

"For the hackers, it's really more fun in the Philippines. Araw-araw talaga ang fiesta nila," Recto added.

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