Special Report on the Economy

Solon wants Metro Bank’s fraud case probed

SENATOR Francis Escudero wants to look into the recently exposed internal fraudulent scheme allegedly perpetrated by a senior bank official of the Metropolitan Bank and Trust Co. (Metrobank) that cost the country’s second biggest bank some P900 million to P2.5 billion in losses.

But Escudero, chairman of the Committee on Banks, Financial Institutions and Currencies, said the Senate committee would not yet launch a Senate investigation. 

He  would like to see first how the ongoing inquiry being conducted by Metrobank along with the National Bureau of Investigation on the fiasco would turn out.

In the meantime, he will call the Metrobank officials as well as the Anti-Money Laundering Council and the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas to a meeting  to get acquainted with the developments of the case and determine if there were loopholes in the existing safety banking mechanisms and procedures.

“I want to be enlightened and I want to hear it straight from Metrobank. I want to know how the bank executive was able to commit such a massive scale of fraud even with the bank’s internal control and checks and balances,” Escudero said.

The suspect, Maria Victoria Lopez, was already arrested through an entrapment operation conducted by the NBI last July 17. Lopez is the head of the corporate services management division of Metrobank’s head office.

According to NBI, Lopez fabricated documents and facilitated the disbursement of loans into fake accounts under the name of one of their corporate clients, the Gokongwei-led Universal Robina Corp.

Through the P25-billion credit line of URC, Lopez was able to process loans amounting to P900 million and P850 million.

According to reports, the suspect was able to release the loans “in tranches of P30 million” for the bank to have lost as much as P2.5 billion.

“So what we want to know now is how often the audit happens, from the side of the BSP and the bank itself.  How come the bank did not detect what was going on at the early onset?” Escudero asked.

The anomaly was only discovered when Metrobank noticed irregularities in the supposed letter request from the client, which asked the bank to issue a P2.25-million manager’s check to an individual payee as interest payment. 

After verifying with URC, the company said it was not aware of the letter, neither of the account where the payment would be debited.

 Metrobank and the NBI are also looking into the possibility that the suspect connived with other employees of the bank in committing the fraudulent transactions.

Apart from the full-blown investigation by Metrobank and the NBI, the AMLC, with the supervision of the BSP, will also do its own probe to check Metrobank’s internal controls.

Escudero said they would look into the result of the inquiry and from then they would decide whether it was necessary to conduct a Senate probe or just leave it to the bank and the police authorities.

Furthermore, URC clarified they did not incur any financial loss in the fraudulent scheme performed by the bank official. 

They also maintained their trust and confidence in the bank, saying they would “continue regular, business as usual transactions” with Metrobank.

According to Escudero, while he understands that internal problems are inevitable in any industry, he asked banks and other financial institutions to be more cautious and strict when it came to internal operations.

Escudero said: “We expect banks to immediately detect red flags in their system and immediately resolve internal matters. 

“Apart from ensuring that the culprit will be brought to justice, Metrobank must secure its clients they have a robust internal control framework and that they will rigorously monitor their system.”

According to the NBI, Lopez was already charged with qualified theft, falsification and violation of the General Banking Law before the Makati City Prosecutor’s Office.

Topics: Sen. Francis Escudero , Metropolitan Bank and Trust Co. , Metro Bank , internal fraudulent scheme

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