The Makati Regional Trial Court in Metro Manila has sentenced a bank employee, involved in what is known as the Bangladesh bank heist of 2016, to four to seven years in prison.
Judge Cesar Untalan found Maia Santos-Deguito guilty of money laundering, in her capacity as manager of a branch of the bank RCBC, which received about $81 million in stolen funds, which were then channeled into Philippine casinos.
The Philippine Daily Inquirer quoted the decision as saying that Deguito “was able to prepare, beforehand, for these remittances in crystal clear violation of the AMLA [Anti-Money Laundering Act]… 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.”
According to news outlet Rappler, the court ruling only indicated that Deguito had knowledge of the transfer of stolen funds—the origin of which has still not been made clear—but not that she herself was a recipient.
The receiving bank accounts, of a certain William Go and a J.C. Lagrosas, are said to be fictitiously named.
“[A]ccused 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,” the decision read.
The judge also ordered Deguito to pay $109 million in penalties, but Deguito’s lawyer Demetrio Custodio said she couldn’t pay this, as the illegally transferred funds did not go to her. He added that they will be appealing the Makati court’s decision all the way to the country’s Supreme Court if necessary, and that his client will be out on bail in the meantime.
It was in the wake of the heist that Philippine lawmakers proceeded to include casinos under coverage of the country’s AMLA. The amendments were signed into law in July 2017, and require all casino-related transactions above PHP5 million ($96,000) to be declared to the Anti-Money Laundering Council.
Deguito alone has been convicted in relation to the heist. In 2017, the Philippine Department of Justice (DoJ) dismissed criminal cases filed against two junket operators due to insufficient evidence they had a part in the illegal transfers. One of the junket operators pointed instead to two Chinese junket agents as responsible for the heist.
Executives of Philrem Service Corp. who had previously been indicted, were eventually cleared by the DoJ.