Philippines anti-money laundering watchdog takes bankers to court for “wilfully” ignoring cyberheist
No arrests have been made by authorities, despite investigations by the FBI, Europol, the Bangladesh police and Philippines authorities iStock

The Philippines' anti-money laundering watchdog has filed criminal charges against five officials of the RCBC (Rizal Commercial Banking Corp) bank as well as the former treasurer Raul Tan, for "wilfully" ignoring suspicious activity, which led to the theft of millions of dollars from Bangladesh's central bank in February.

In a 97-page complaint issued to the Philippines justice ministry, the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) accused Tan, three retail banking officials and two other staffers working at the RCBC branch from which hackers transferred and withdrew the stolen money, were guilty of money laundering for not immediately flagging suspicious activity.

The AMLC complaint, which was based on the bank's investigation into the cyberheist, claimed that Tan's actions indicated that he had "knowledge that the funds transacted represented the proceeds of an unlawful activity."

The complaint stated, "Tan was in a position to order enhanced due diligence based on the red flags," Reuters reported.

"Tan could have convened the anti-money laundering committee to act on these red flags," the AMLC said. Tan "wilfully ignored them and failed to conduct thorough investigation", as required by law and the bank's regulations, the organisation added.

Tan resigned from RCBC in April. No arrests have been made by authorities, despite investigations by the FBI, Europol, the Bangladesh police and the Philippines authorities.

On 18 November, Tan as well as Ismael S Reyes, Brigitte R Capiña, Nestor O Pineda, Romualdo S Agarrado and Angela Ruth S Torres were charged under Section 4(f) of the Anti-Money Launder Act (AMLA), the Daily Star reported.

RCBC said in a statement that its internal investigation had found no evidence of any official of its head office involved in the transaction. "We welcome the charges as an opportunity to conclusively prove that our executives acted properly and had no knowledge or participation in any money laundering," said RCBC CEO and president Gil Buenaventura.

The Bangladesh Bank recently retrieved $15m (£12m, €14m) of the stolen $81m. Casino boss Kim Wont, also a long-time RCBC client, surrendered the $15m to the Philippines government, which he claimed he received from two "Chinese high rollers". However, Wong has denied any involvement in the cyberheist. Bangladesh's central bank officials believe that at least $30m more of the stolen funds could be recovered soon.