Rizal Bank CEO goes on leave to clear name in $81 mil­lion heist

The Pak Banker - - FRONT PAGE -

MANILA: Rizal Com­mer­cial Bank­ing Corp., the Philip­pine len­der whose em­ploy­ees are sus­pected of help­ing laun­der about $81 mil­lion stolen from Bangladesh's cen­tral bank, said it ac­cepted Pres­i­dent Lorenzo Tan's of­fer to go on leave. Tan vol­un­teered to step back "to al­low him to fo­cus on clear­ing his name in the money laun­der­ing is­sue a board com­mit­tee is in­ves­ti­gat­ing," Rizal Bank said in a state­ment. Chair­woman He­len Dee will take over in Tan's ab­sence, the bank said.

Philip­pine law­mak­ers last week started an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into how the stolen funds ended up in four Rizal Bank ac­counts be­fore the cash was al­legedly laun­dered in casi­nos. Bangko Sen­tral ng Pilip­inas said it will hold ac­count­able any bank or banker found re­spon­si­ble or re­miss in their du­ties.

Cen­tral to the probe is for­mer RCBC branch man­ager Maia Santos De­guito, who is ac­cused of al­low­ing the funds to be trans­ferred de­spite re­quests from Bangladesh to halt the trans­ac­tions. At a pub­lic hear­ing on March 17, De­guito de­clined to dis­cuss the trans­fers to avoid self-in­crim­i­na­tion. Her lawyer Fer­di­nand Topa­cio said De­guito was fol­low­ing the or­ders of her su­pe­ri­ors.

De­guito also tes­ti­fied af­ter a closed-door meet­ing with law­mak­ers that Tan knows sev­eral peo­ple who may have been part of the scheme.

"So far, no ev­i­dence has been pre­sented against Tan link­ing him to the is­sue and the board has taken cog­nizance of the state­ment of De­guito be­fore the Se­nate that Tan had noth­ing to do with the open­ing of the ac­counts that re­ceived" the funds, Rizal Bank said.

Tan's leave will "avoid any per­cep­tion of any un­due in­flu­ence" in the in­ter­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion and will "give him more time to ad­dress base­less per­sonal at­tacks against him," his lawyer Fran­cis Lim said in a state­ment.

Ear­lier this month, Tan said he con­demned any sug­ges­tion that top man­age­ment knew of or tol­er­ated the al­leged money laun­der­ing. Hack­ers stole $101 mil­lion from Bangladesh's cen­tral bank last month in an at­tempted heist of nearly $1 bil­lion. A Sri Lanka bank re­turned $20 mil­lion, but most of the funds sent to the Philip­pines are now miss­ing.

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