The bank’s cameras were down, but her boss, Romualdo Agarrado, testified he saw her withdraw more than $400,000 (her alleged cut of the money), stash it in a paper bag, and carry it to her car. Go, the businessman, said Deguito met him at a restaurant, confessed, and offered him money to help cover her tracks. He said he declined the offer.
“Upon seating, she told me, ‘Sir, I’m sorry. I did something wrong to you. I opened an account for you at RCBC,’” Go testified, according to the Philippine Daily Inquirer.
Deguito has offered another version of the story: that bank executives helped plan and direct the heist, and that Go was in on it. A former assistant manager at RCBC testified last Thursday that, indeed, there had been a cover up. Deguito was just the patsy.
“Almost all of Mr. Agarrado’s statements in the Senate hearing yesterday were lies,” Angela Torres, the former assistant manager, said, according to the Philippine Daily Inquirer. “The cash was not put in a paper bag, instead it was placed in a box and was loaded to William Go’s Lexus.”
Go had personally opened the account used to transfer the money, Torres said, and he signed the withdrawal slip for the cut she says was taken to his car.
This view—that Deguito is taking the fall for a far larger operation—has other supporters, among them John Gomes, the Bangladeshi ambassador to the Philippines.
“I feel, as an outsider, there was a coverup,” Gomes testified, adding that when senators pushed RCBC executives, they invoked the country’s bank-secrecy act. Asked if he thought Deguito could have done it alone, Gomes said, “I don’t think so. I don’t believe a manager of any bank in the world could handle millions of dollars which suddenly appeared in some accounts.”
Even before the hearings, the Philippine Daily Inquirer had obtained internal statements that, if true, might damn Go and RCBC executives. On March 9, the paper reported:
A representative of the bank manager—who has since been suspended as part of the bank’s internal investigation—showed the Inquirer documents alleging that the transactions had the imprimatur of top bank officials ever since the manager was ordered to open five bank accounts as early as May 2015.
To support the opening of these bank accounts, the RCBC branch manager was provided with five identification documents or ID cards, all of which were determined to carry fictitious identities after the controversy broke out.
“The branch manager is now willing to speak out because she’s afraid the bank will pin it all on her,” a representative of the official told the Inquirer on late Monday. “But, in fact, she was ordered to facilitate these transactions. You can’t do anything this big without higher-ups not knowing.”
In other words, there were more people involved. On Tuesday, local investigators at Philippines’s anti-money-laundering agency filed criminal complaints against both Xu and Wong, alleging they’d both received some of the stolen money. The Wall Street Journal reported that Wong’s lawyer said he intended to testify at the Senate hearings in the Philippines, but he was out of the country. And while this latest development may have provided another glimpse into how the money was taken, there seems to be little chance Bangladesh will recoup it.
“That’s where the money trail ends,” Julia Bacay-Abad, the executive director of the Philippine Anti-Money Laundering Council, told the Nikkei Asian Review.
The heist has led many Filipino officials and executives to demand the country lift its bank and casino-secrecy laws. And as these Internet bank heists happen again, and again, and again, it reminds us the Internet can be an anarchic place where an individual––even an entire country––can be held up with just a few keystrokes.