OFFICIALS of closed rural banks in Visayas have been convicted on charges filed by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP).

Former bankers from the defunct Rural Bank of Badiangan (Iloilo), Inc (RBBI). and Rural Bank of Sebaste (Antique), Inc. (RB Sebaste) have been found guilty of fraudulent bank transactions.

“The cases stemmed from a criminal complaint filed by the BSP’s Office of Special Investigation against the three RB Sebaste officers for their participation in the creation of fictitious loans aggregating to about P63 million as of March 2007,” the BSP said in a statement on Friday.

The BSP found that the said bogus loans were included in the lender’s financial statements and reports, making it look as if the bank was in sound financial state.

“The bank, however, was actually incurring huge operational losses and was unable to pay its liabilities as they become due in the normal course of business. The bank also had insufficient assets to meet its liabilities,” the central bank said.

A decision by the Regional Trial Court of Culasi, Antique dated July 9 found former RB Sebaste chairman and president Eugene T. Estrella guilty on eight counts for violating the General Banking Law of 2000 due to fraudulent transactions. Because of this, he was sentenced to two years of imprisonment for each count.

Moreover, Mr. Estrella, together with RB Sebaste’s former director Luis T. Estrella, Jr., were also found guilty by the Municipal Trial Court of Kalibo, Aklan on seven, four, and two counts of falsification of public documents, respectively.

The Kalibo court also sentenced the three bank officials to minimum imprisonment of six months and one day to a maximum of two years, four months, and one day. They were also slammed with fines of P1,000 for each count.

Meanwhile, three officers from RBBI were convicted by the Regional Trial Court of Iloilo City for 20 counts of violation of the General Banking Law of 2000 also on the grounds of fraudulent transactions.

In its decision dated Sept. 18, the court sentenced RBBI’s former chairman, president and manager Bella A. Buscar, as well as Cynthia A. Taconloy and Leni A. Abordaje, who were loans and savings clerks, to imprisonment of two to four years for each count.

It was in 2016 when the BSP filed a criminal complaint against the three persons for defrauding clients by soliciting deposits but willfully omitting said transactions in the books of the bank.

“Investigations revealed that high interest rates were offered to entice the public to make such deposits,” the central bank said.

In Aug. 24, 2007, the Monetary Board placed the RB Sebaste under the receivership of the Philippine Deposit and Insurance Corp. The same fate happened to RBBI on July 5, 2012.

“In line with its mandate to promote financial stability, the BSP continues to foster high standards of governance and risk management among institutions it supervises,” the central bank said. — L.W.T. Noble