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P900-M fraud: Bank exec nabbed
Metrobank corporate service management head Maria Victoria Lopez hides her face during a press conference at the National Bureau of Investigation main office in Manila following her arrest for fraud. MIGUEL DE GUZMAN
MANILA, Philippines - A senior executive of the Metropolitan Bank & Trust Co. (Metrobank) has been arrested by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) on charges of perpetrating internal fraud that cost the country’s second largest bank at least P900 million.
Agents from the NBI’s anti-fraud and action division (AFAD) arrested Maria Victoria “Marivic” Lopez in her office last July 17. At the time of her arrest, Lopez was the bank’s corporate service management head.
NBI-AFAD chief Irvin Garcia said Lopez was presented the following day before the Makati City Prosecutor’s Office and charged with qualified theft, falsification of documents and violation of the General Banking Act last Tuesday.
Officer-on-case Norman Aguirre said Lopez was arrested for allegedly facilitating the creation of two fictitious loans worth a total P1.75 billion from which she expected to earn millions of pesos in interest.
Lopez was in charge of handling “valued” or corporate clients, a position that gave her the power to easily issue checks on behalf of the bank, Aguirre said.
Citing initial probe, Aguirre disclosed that the bank allegedly authorized two loans worth P900 million and P850 million as requested by a corporate client, whom he declined to name, with a credit line worth P25 billion.
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The loans issued by the bank turned out to be fictitious, as confirmed by the concerned client. Aguirre said they also discovered falsified documents including a letter dated June 30 bearing “dubious signatures.”
On the day of entrapment, the client was supposed to pay P2.25 million for reprisal of the loan’s interest, which happens every quarter, Aguirre added.
“As soon as Lopez gave instructions to debit the amount of P2.25 million from the client’s savings account, the bank issued a debit memo for her, as evidence of the processing of the transaction,” the NBI official said.
It added that the bank created an account where the payment – in the form of manager’s check – would supposedly go.
The client also claimed having no idea about the account made for the payment of the interest, NBI findings also disclosed.
However, Aguirre pointed out that the loans are “still intact.” The NBI, he added, has yet to establish if the suspect acted alone or with an accomplice.
NBI spokesman Ferdinand Lavin said Lopez refused to cooperate with investigators as “she’s not talking.”
Lopez had been with the bank for over 30 years, reportedly with a monthly salary of P250,000 at the time of her arrest.
Meanwhile, the House committee on banks and financial intermediaries will inquire into the reported “internal fraud” in Metrobank.
Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone, committee chairman, said yesterday he would invite officers of BSP and the bank to shed light on the issue.
“The BSP, being the regulator, should be more proactive in its regulatory functions to protect depositors and the banking industry in general,” he said.
He said his panel would like to know from Metrobank “why the scam happened.”
“We will look into their protocols and procedures, how fake accounts were reportedly opened,” he added.
Evardone said banks should now have stricter protocols in the opening of accounts.
He recalled that bogus accounts were also involved in the diversion last year by suspected Chinese hackers of $81 in Bangladeshi funds to the Jupiter Street, Makati branch of Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. – Jess Diaz