RCBC branch officer says Deguito feared for her life

enablePagination: false
maxItemsPerPage: 10
maxPaginationLinks: 10

Romualdo Agarrado, a reserve officer of the Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation (RCBC), during the second Senate hearing of the alleged $81 million money laundering case

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) – The plot thickens.

A branch officer of the Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation (RCBC) revealed that his branch manager defied an order from bank officials to freeze several accounts linked to the laundering of $81 million stolen by hackers from Bangladesh Bank.

Romualdo Agarrado, a bank reserve officer, told a Senate hearing on Thursday (March 17) that Maia Santos-Deguito of the RCBC branch on Jupiter St. in Makati, ignored the February 9 order from her superiors and went ahead to transfer $44 million to the dollar account allegedly belonging to businessman William So Go.

Related: PH money laundering probe: What we know so far

Agarrado said he learned that bank officials ordered a “recall of funds” or a freeze on several accounts, including Go’s earlier that day. He asked Deguito if she knew about it. “She just looked at me blankly,” he said.

He said Deguito directed her Senior Customer Relationship Officer Angela Torres to process the deposits, despite the freeze order.

Later Deguito called him to her office where she said “many things.”

”Pero ang nag-stuck lang po sa mind ko na sabi niya, ‘Í would rather do this than me being killed, or my family.’”

[Translation: “But the one that stuck in my mind – she said, “I would rather do this than me being killed, or my family.”]

Deguito denied ever receiving a death threat in connection with Go’s bank accounts.

“I deny that statement. Everything, I will disclose in the executive session,” she said, annoying Senator Juan Ponce Enrile, who threatened to cite her for contempt.

Also read: RCBC chief: I have no knowledge of money laundering

Witness: Deguito drives away with P20M

Anti-money laundering officials say the $44 million formed part of the $66 million from Go’s dollar account that eventually went to Philippine Remittances Limited (Philrem), a foreign exchange broker.

Also read: There was conspiracy, says Sen. Guingona

Go denied he had any accounts at the RCBC Jupiter branch. He told senators during the first hearing on Tuesday Deguito admitted opening the account without his knowledge and apologized for doing so.

Agarrado said on February 5, four days before bank’s freeze order, Deguito, requested P20 million transferred to her branch from the bank’s cash center.

About an hour after the cash arrived in an armored van, the money was withdrawn. He said he saw a messenger, assisted by Torres, loading the cash, which had been transferred to a paper bag, inside the car of Deguito, who drove away with the money.

“Kitang kita ko po kasi nakaupo ako sa table ko fronting the main door of the branch,” Agarrado said.

[Translation: “I could see it clearly because my desk is fronting the main door of the branch.”]

Agarrado bribed

On February 12, another branch officer invited Agarrado and other branch employees for dinner at his home in Forbes Park.

To his surprise, Agarrado said they were joined by Deguito, who turned the gathering into a meeting where he expressed his concerns about the turn of events. At this point, Deguito told her staff she knew many lawyers well versed in the anti-money laundering law, Agarrado said.

He quoted Deguito saying that one of the lawyers “even suggested to her kung nagpacompute na daw ba ako ng retirement at kung kasya na ba yung 5 million sa akin.”

[Translation: "If I had already computed how much I would get as retirement pay and whether 5 million would be enough for me."]

Agarrado claimed he never saw Go until the first senate hearing on the money laundering case. Transactions involving Go’s bank accounts appeared pre-arranged. “There was a withdrawal slip already, accomplished withdrawal slip coming from the branch manager,” he said.

All in all, Estavillo clarified that only around $66 million landed on Go’s account – not the entire $81 million that was first reported.

Watch: How $81M was laundered from Bangladesh Bank

She said bank secrecy laws prevent her from disclosing where the remaining $15 million went.