BAP calls for closed-door hearings on $81M money laundering scam

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Former Finance Secretary Roberto De Ocampo explained that while he understands the need to investigate, the Senate's public hearings are putting the nation’s banking system at risk as the world watches over the marathon investigations.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — When a whopping $81 million in illicit funds was transferred from the Bangladesh Bank to the Jupiter branch of the Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation (RCBC), it first appeared to be an isolated case with only a small branch of one Philippine bank involved.

“Unfortunately for us, it has become a global spectacle,” Bankers Association of the Philippines (BAP) representative Roberto De Ocampo said in a statement on Thursday (March 31), amid fears that local banks with remittance operations abroad might be forced to close due to the money laundering issue.

Related: PH may suffer if money laundering is proven – senator

As Sen. Sergio “Serge” Osmeña said in the third Senate hearing on the $81 million money laundering scam, statements of RCBC officials were sending a message to hackers to send their money to the Philippines since the country’s banks cannot stop them.

“Towards this, I suggest that subsequent hearings be held behind closed doors since they will yield even more information and thus be more productive,” De Ocampo said.

The former Finance secretary explained that while he understood the need to investigate, public sessions were putting the nation’s banking system at risk as the world watched over the marathon hearings.

RCBC reportedly closed its remittance operations in Italy, but the management said it was “not in any way related to the current issue on money laundering.”

Related: RCBC apologizes for involvement of its personnel in money laundering case

Instead, Manny Narciso, head of RCBC’s Global Transaction Banking Group, said it closed “because it could not meet on time the computer systems capabilities required of it by Banca D’Italia since 2014.”

But De Ocampo said Philippine banks’ remittance operations abroad had already been facing tighter scrutiny from their partner foreign banks due to the money laundering case.

Recruitment consultant Emmanuel Geslani likewise told CNN Philippines that financial authorities abroad had been asking many Philippine banks to close down remittance programs in several cities around the world.

This is bad news, especially for over 2.3 million overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who are sending money to their families in the Philippines. There are over 10 million Filipinos temporarily or permanently residing abroad, according to the Commission on Filipinos Overseas (CFO).

“I strongly believe both our banking system and RCBC will be able to weather this storm and emerge even stronger with lessons learned from it,” De Ocampo said.

Also read: PH money laundering probe: What we know so far