Deguito admits she lied, more revelations in the $81M Bangladesh money-laundering case

Deguito & Palmares (Photos: MCA)

DISMISSED RIZAL COMMERCIAL Banking Corporation (RCBC) Jupiter branch bank Manager Maia Santos-Deguito most recently admitted she lied to conceal the personalities involved in the $81-million cyber scam stolen from the Bangladesh bank and channeled to casinos in the Philippines.

Testifying before the Senate Blue Ribbon committee, Deguito said casino junket operator Kam Sing Wong alias Kim Wong instructed her to transfer stolen money from the accounts of four depositors—Michael Francisco Cruz, Jessie Christopher Lagrosas, Enrico Teodoro Vasquez and Alfred Santos Vergara. The funds were then transmitted to the account of Centurytex Trading owned by William Go, said Deguito.

Sen. Serge Osmeña III asked why she followed Wong’s order, Deguito said the operator was the one who referred the four account holders and “acted as their authorized representatives to inquire balances and instruct me for further instructions.”

But Deguito said she also cannot understand why Wong would order the transfer of the money to the account of Go.

RCBC’s Legal Chief Maria Celia Estavillo countered Deguito’s claim, saying they have her letter which stated that it was Lagrosas who gave her instructions to transfer the funds to Go.

Estavillo accused Deguito of contradicting her own written statement to the bank.

When confronted by Osmeña, Deguito related that during that time, she was not ready to reveal the referrals of the accounts nor the person who instructed her. This was the advice of her lawyer.

“Yes, your honor, it was really Mr. Wong who instructed me,” she said.

“So you were lying to your own head office?” Osmeña asked Deguito.

Mark Palmares, a messenger of Philrem Service Corp., told the Senate that PHP 90 million and another $500,000, said to be part of the $81 million stolen from Bangladesh bank, were delivered to Solaire Resort and Casino Manila in Parañaque City on February 5.

Testifying for the first time before the Senate panel chaired by Sen. Teofisto Guingona, Palmares confirmed that he delivered the money upon the instruction of his boss, Philrem President Salud Bautista.

Bautista said the delivery of funds was supposedly upon the instruction of Deguito. He said the huge amount was loaded in a suitcase, a traveling bag and a shoulder bag and was brought inside the hotel by means of a trolley. This was the reply when it was asked how heavy PHP 90 million was by Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile.

According to Palmares, he picked up the money from their office at Cityland in Makati City and transported it to Solaire around 7:30 p.m. He said he delivered the money himself.

Asked by Guingona if he was able to carry it alone, Palmares revealed that the company driver helped him off load the bags.

However, the messenger said it was only he who pushed the trolley to the VIP room of Solaire where his boss, Bautista, and other Chinese-looking men were waiting for him. He handed the receiving copy to Bautista and left the trolley with the bags of money.

Guingona then directed his questions to Bautista and asked how she gave the money to the recipient, junket operator Weikang Xu. Bautista recalled that it was Wong who helped him identify Weikang Xu.
“So I just asked for his passport and have him sign it,” said Bautista.

In the same hearing, Anti-Money Laundering Council Executive Director Julia Bacay-Abad confirmed that Eastern Hawaii Leisure Co. Ltd., another company of Wong, through his lawyers, turned over PHP 200 million to their office “for safekeeping” to be returned to the people of Bangladesh.

Wong admitted it was part of the PHP 450 million funds that he promised to return if proven that the money was part of the alleged stolen funds from Bangladesh.

He earlier said a total of PHP 1 billion from the $81-million funds was remitted to RCBC and PHP 450 million was payment for a debt by junket operator Shuhua Gao. He said the remaining PHP 550 million was converted into chips and played in the casino. He said more than PHP 40 million was left.

Philrem maintained that all the funds related to the $81million money laundering scheme went to casinos in Manila and junket operator WeiKang Xu.

Bautista said Xu received PHP 600 million and $18 million (PHP 857.7 million) from PhilRem.

 Philrem also converted into pesos $61 million (PHP 2.9 billion).

Wong earlier claimed that the still unaccounted $17 million were still with the remittance company, but this was repeatedly denied by Bautista.

Bureau of Internal Revenue Commissioner Kim Henares earlier testified before the Senate that Philrem Service Corp. was not registered as a remittance company,

“We looked at the registration of Philrem with us; I think there’s something wrong with their registration. Their registration with us is for other land transportation contractor, not money changer and remittance company. They amended their articles of incorporation in 2005 but they did not update their registration with us,” Henares testified in the Senate Blue Ribbon committee fourth hearing.

“The taxes they paid are wrong because when you are money changer and a foreign exchange company, you are a non-bank financial intermediary, so you’re supposed to pay a five percent gross receipt tax. You’re not supposed to be paying VAT [value-added tax],” stressed Henares.

The tax chief also said the receipts issued by Philrem to Xu, the supposed recipient and beneficiaries of cash deliveries, were not registered with the BIR and a “clear violation of the regulation.”

Philrem was the alleged remittance firm used to channel the stolen funds from Bangladesh Bank that found its way into casinos in the Philippines. (MCA)