Maia Santos Deguito, a branch manager of the Rizal Commercial Banking Corp (RCBC) reacts during a money laundering hearing at Senate in Manila March 15, 2016. Image Credit: Reuters

Manila: The Makati Regional Trial Court has sentenced a bank manager implicated in one of the biggest bank robberies in history, the $81 million (Dh300 million) Bangladesh Central Bank cyber heist of 2016.

In the promulgation of the verdict on the celebrated case that riled the banking sector on Thursday, Judge Cesar Untalan of the Makati Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 149 sentenced Maia Santos-Deguito, a bank branch manager, to eight counts of money laundering in connection with the trans-border cyber heist.

Each count, amounts to minimum four years to a maximum seven years in prison.

In 2017, the Philippine government, had charged Deguito with facilitating the transfer of money deposited at the Bangladesh Bank to multiple accounts under four fictitious names at the Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation (RCBC) branch on Jupiter Street, Makati City in February 2016.

It can be recalled that February 4, 2016, cyber criminals had launched a barrage of attacks targeting the Bangladesh Central Bank.

Using SWIFT credentials of the Bangladesh Central Bank, hackers duped bank employees into sending fraudulent money transfers upon the request to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

SWIFT means Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, it is a consortium that operates a worldwide computer network for communication between member banks.

The hackers were able to penetrate the supposedly secure system and siphon off from the Bangladesh Central Bank, $101 million of the planned $1 billion multiple transactions until the Federal Reserve Bank of New York noticed something unusual in the money transfers and temporarily shut down the system.

Among those where the money taken from the Bangladesh Bank were laundered by the cyber thieves was RCBC Branch in Jupiter Street where Dequito was the manager.

Another bank breached by the hackers included one in Sri Lanka where $20 million was taken.

The hackers managed to divert $81 million of Federal Reserve Bank of New York transfer to Bangladesh Bank to the RCBC using four different transfer requests named to Michael Francisco Cruz, Jessie Christopher Lagrosas, Alfred Santos Vergara, and Enrico Teodoro Vasquez who turned out to be fictitious.

The $81 million was consolidated into a single US dollar account in the name of Filipino-Chinese businessman William Go, then withdrawn, converted into peso, and transferred to at least three casinos, a report by GMA News said.

In his verdict, Untalan rejected Deguito’s defence claiming innocence over the transactions.

Untalan said Dequito’s assertions were a “complete and comprehensive lie,” and that she is also guilty on the basis of “command responsibility” because she has knowledge of the branch’s transactions because she was the manager at that time.

“She had full and prior knowledge of the illegal source of these funds,” Untalan said.

In judge Untalan’s verdict, Dequito was also ordered by the court to pay $109,520,044 representing the amount stolen from the Bangladesh Bank in the cyber heist.