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Ex-RCBC branch manager Deguito appeals conviction

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FORMER RCBC branch manager Maia Santos-Deguito. — SENATE PRIB VIA INTERAKSYON

FORMER Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. (RCBC) branch manager Maia Santos-Deguito, through her legal counsels, asked the Makati City court to reverse its Jan. 10 decision convicting her of eight counts of money laundering over the $81-million Bangladesh Bank heist in February 2016.

In the motion for reconsideration filed on Jan. 25, Ms. Deguito’s legal counsels said the prosecution failed to provide “direct proof” that she had knowledge of the said illegal transactions.

“Instead, it was only presumed by the Honorable Court from the alleged failure of Accused to do what the Honorable Court believes she should have done,” the motion read.

Judge Cesar O. Untalan of Makati City regional trial court Branch 149 on Jan. 10 found Ms. Deguito guilty of eight counts of money laundering and ordered her to pay a fine of $109-million while sentencing her to imprisonment of four to seven years for each count.

The case stemmed from the transfers from the account of the Bangladesh Bank with the Federal Reserve Bank of New York to four fictitious accounts opened at RCBC’s Jupiter Street branch in Makati City.

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The court said Ms. Deguito “facilitated these transactions to their full and complete implementation without any sign of hesitation.”

The legal counsels of Ms. Deguito upheld that she verified the validity of the remittances and their sources and she met with the owners of the accounts before they were opened.

“Accused action was not the action of a guilty person. If it were true that the account owners ‘are all non-existing and fictitious persons; and accused Deguito was very well aware of the fact,’ then it was highly improbable that she would voluntarily and unnecessarily expose herself to the risk of discovery and punishment by agreeing to meet in public places like Midas Hotel and Casino, and even bringing two other persons with her,” they said.

They also said that Ms. Deguito did not have the authority to stop the transactions, disputing the court’s decision that she should have done such.

They claimed that the court “ignored the established fact” that remittances in the cases were credited to the accounts via “Straight Through Process.” They also added that the RCBC’s higher-ups put a hold on the transactions and then lifted it after determining the validity of the remittances.

They also said the testimonies that Ms. Deguito facilitated the transactions which the court relied on “should not be given merit” as they were “hearsay” only.

They said the court “misunderstood the meaning of a money laundering offense under the law” as the elements required for the said crime such as monetary instrument or property and the accused’s knowledge that this would be involved in an unlawful activity were not present when the accounts were opened.

The counsels also said the court imposed the wrong penalty on Ms. Deguito as the maximum imposable fine against her is only P24 million as she was charged of violation of Section 4(f) of Anti-Money Laundering Law which has a fine ranging from P1.5 million to P3 million and imprisonment of four to seven years. — V.M.M. Villegas

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