Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. said Thursday it closed its remittance operations in Italy, but the shutdown is not connected to the issue of money laundering.
RCBC said it stopped the Italian remittance operations because it could not meet on time the computer systems capabilities required by Banca D’Italia, the central bank of Italy.
RCBC owns two branches in Italy—one in Rome and another in Florence.
RCBC global transaction banking group head Manny Narciso said the closure of its operations in Italy was “not in any way related to the current issue on money laundering.”
RCBC is being probed by the Senate because of alleged involvement in the illegal transfer of $81-million funds believed stolen by cyber thieves from the Bangladesh Bank.
The illegal funds entered the country’s financial system in February through an RCBC branch on Jupiter Street in Makati City.
RCBC said it had taken immediate steps to improve operational processes.
The bank said it reduced its straight through processing threshold amount for both inward and outward remittances.
“New threshold amounts have been established for corporate and individual accounts. In addition, RCBC has also increased the frequency of after-posting reviews. There will be greater focus on unusual transactions which will be escalated to the group head via separate and frequent operations reports. Further activities are also being programmed to ensure early and timely tracking and action on any suspicious transaction, with controls in place for higher level action,” it said.
RCBC said it also took action on strengthening the account opening process. “All in-branch account opening will be signed by two officers, each reporting to different units of the bank. Photos will be taken of walk-in clients who are opening accounts. Unusual transactions will be escalated to the regional and/or national higher level officers for independent verification. All know your customer [KYC] procedures are also being reviewed or further strengthening,” the bank said.
Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima earlier disclosed that a growing number of foreign banks recently closed accounts of money transfer operators that service Filipino migrants. He did not identify the banks.
Narciso said RCBC planned to continue serving the remittance needs of Filipinos in Italy. “We are therefore trying to find better ways to do so,” Narciso said.
Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas said it was currently monitoring the discontinuation of partnerships
between several foreign banks and money transfer operators. Bangko Sentral Deputy Governor Diwa Guinigundo said these developments could have potential impact on the flow of remittances.
Purisima said amending Republic Act No. 9160, or the the Anti-Money Laundering Act was urgent to protect the remittances of migrant Filipinos. “A growing number of foreign banks have recently closed accounts of money transfer operators that service our OFWs [overseas Filipino workers]. If foreign banks continue to close down more accounts, the cost of remitting money for our OFWs can double,” Purisima said.
“Reforming Amla will send a message to foreign banks that OFW remittances should not be confused with the dirty money an unscrupulous few have coursed through the weak spots of our system. Reforming Amla will show our OFWs that we are serious about protecting their hard-earned money,” he said.