AMLC files raps vs. PhilRem on US$ 81-M money laundering scam

MANILA—The Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) on Thursday filed before the Department of Justice (DOJ) a money laundering complaint against money remittance company PhilRem Service Corp. (PhilRem)and its key officials in connection with the stealing of USD 81 million by hackers from an account of Bangladeshi Bank in February this year.

Facing a complaint for violation of the Anti-Money Laundering Act specifically Sections 4(a), (b) and (f) are top officials of PhilRem, namely: Salud Bautista, President, Michael “Concon” Bautista, Chairman of the Board and Treasurer and Anthony Pelejo, PhilRem’s Anti-Money Laundering Compliance Officer.

Section 4 (a), (b) and (f) refers to money laundering acts, including transacting the monetary instrument or property, converts, transfers, disposes of, moves, acquires, possesses or uses said monetary instrument or property and performs of rails to perform any act as a result of which he or she facilitated the money laundering offense.

The AMLC said that the unauthorized access to Bangladesh Bank’s system amounted to “hacking” or “cracking,” which is punishable under Section 33 (a) of the Electronic Commerce Act.

Based on the investigation conducted by AMLC, the stolen funds were credited to the fictitious bank accounts of Michael Cruz, Jessie Christopher Lagrosas, Alfred Vergara and Enrico Vasquez, which were all opened on May 15, 2015 at the Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. (RCBC) Jupiter, Makati City Branch.

The AMLC added that the dollar and peso accounts under the name of “William So Go” doing business as Centurytex Trading, which were opened on Feb. 5, 2016 and July 30, 2014, respectively, were also fictitious.

Of the stolen funds, USD 65,668,664.37, which were withdrawn from the accounts of Cruz, Lagrosas, Vergara and Vasquez, were transferred to Go and eventually to PhilRem.

The AMLC stressed that of the US$ 65 million which were transferred to Go, USD 13 million were transferred to the RCBC account of Abba Currency Exchange, Inc. (Abba) on Feb. 9, 2016.

That same date, USD 3,230,000 were transferred from the Abba account to the RCBC account of Beacon Currency Exchange Inc. (Beacon).

On Feb. 5, 9 and 10, 2016 the balance of US$ 52,668,664.37 was transferred from the RCBC account of Go to the RCBC-Unimart Greenhills account of PhilRem.

Likewise, USD 15 million from Vasquez’ account were also transferred to PhilRem’s account.

Both Abba and Beacon also transferred a total of USD 13 million to PhilRem’s RCBC account in Pasig City.

The AMLC said that Pelejo submitted a Suspicious Transaction Report (STR) to AMLC.

Under the STR, the PhilRem said that the transactions made were upon the instructions of “Go” but during the senate investigation, Salud said that the transactions were made upon the instructions of former RCBC Jupiter Branch Manager Maia Deguito.

The AMLC said that it was highly irregular that PhilRem would deal with Deguito and not the owner of the “Go” account.

“The foregoing circumstances clearly show that respondent spouses were aware that the funds were not legitimate when they deliberately ignored the AMLA requirements…Had they done so, respondent spouses would have personally interviewed the real William Go and discover that the latter was not aware of the existence of the RCBC Account Nos. 9016455240 and 9010270206,” the AMLC said.

“Worse, respondent spouses converted and transacted the stolen funds with another fictitious account: Centurytex,” the complaint said.

“Philrem acting as a remittance agent actually co-mingled the funds and acted as a ‘cleaning house’. Philrem’s role was to make it extremely difficult to trace the source and flow of the funds by avoiding all anti-money laundering measures set by laws and regulations. The participation of Philrem is really to ‘wash’ the funds and conceal the money trail,” the AMLC added.

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