Banker in $81mn heist followed orders, says lawyer

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MANILA / Bloomberg

The Philippine bank manager who approved fund transfers at the center of an $81 million cyber heist will tell lawmakers in a closed hearing on Thursday that she was following orders from high-level officials at Rizal Commercial Banking Corp., her lawyer said.
Maia Santos Deguito has e-mails, mobile-phone messages and other evidence showing that she was acting on orders from her superiors when she approved transactions allowing the transfer of the funds — stolen from the Bangladesh central bank — through her Makati City branch, her lawyer Ferdinand Topacio said in an interview with DZMM radio.
“It is not at her level to transact such a huge amount” without the knowledge of the bank’s “highest echelons,” Topacio said. Rizal Bank’s Chief Executive Officer Lorenzo Tan denied Deguito’s claims in an e-mailed statement sent on Thursday by his spokesman. Rizal Bank is involved in a scandal that saw hackers defraud Bangladesh’s central bank of foreign reserves, which were subsequently routed to lenders in the Philippines and Sri Lanka. The governor of Bangladesh’s central bank resigned this week over his agency’s handling of the matter.
The Philippine anti-money laundering agency has said that Deguito allowed the opening of at least four fictitious accounts that received $81 million, and permitted the sum to be withdrawn on February 5 and February 9
despite requests from the Bangladesh central bank to halt the transactions. The funds about match the average daily amount overseas Filipinos send home in remittances.
Deguito declined to answer questions at a five-hour Philippine Senate hearing on Tuesday, invoking her right not to self-incriminate, and instead opted to speak in a closed-door session Thursday.
The crime of money laundering is punishable by a maximum jail term of 14 years in the

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