• Banker expected to reveal details at a closed-door hearing
  • Casino operators, regulator may shed light on money laundering

The Philippine banker involved in an $81 million cyber heist will be questioned in a closed-door Senate hearing on Thursday as the government expands its probe into how the funds were laundered through the country’s casinos.

The Philippine anti-money laundering agency said Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. branch manager Maia Santos Deguito allowed the money to be withdrawn on Feb. 5 and Feb. 9 despite requests from Bangladesh -- the owner of the funds -- to stop the transfers. The banker declined to answer questions at Tuesday’s five-hour Senate hearing and opted for a tell all in a closed-door executive session.

Deguito “is a key player here because if you don’t have the cooperation of the branch manager, this could not have been done,” Senator Serge Osmena, vice chairman of the country’s blue ribbon committee, which investigates major issues, told reporters on Wednesday. “We have barely scratched the surface in this investigation.”

The missing funds, about the average daily amount overseas Filipinos send home in remittances, has rattled authorities from the Philippines, Bangladesh to Sri Lanka. Bangladesh central bank governor Atiur Rahman submitted his resignation Tuesday as tensions escalate with the finance minister over the stolen funds.

Casino Probe

In broadening the probe to the casinos, Thomas Arasi, president and chief operating officer at Bloomberry Resorts Corp., is expected to be questioned at the hearing on Thursday. Silverio Benny Tan, corporate secretary at Bloomberry, said at the hearing on Tuesday his casino received funds from a local remittance company. Cristino Naguiat, head of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp., which manages local casinos, will also attend the hearing, Osmena said.

“We’re looking for electronic trail and the casinos may be able to tell us,” the senator said. “I want to know where the money went and in whose account it was credited.”

The crime of money laundering is punishable by a maximum jail term of 14 years in the Philippines.

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