Two persons earlier named as “conspirators” in a bank fraud amounting to about P1.75 billion on Tuesday denied involvement, saying they are also victims of the bank’s former vice president who was arrested by the National Bureau of Investigation.
In a statement, lawyers Regie Tongol and Emil Joven said their clients Hubert Co and Sue Anne Sai were “erroneously charged by Metrobank as co-consprators” of the bank’s former vice president Victoria Lopez.
Tongol said Co and Sai were never arrested. Only Lopez was arrested by the NBI.
“In the news stories, your respective media organizations published/aired or broadcasted regarding sanctions imposed by BSP on Metrobank,” said the statement.
“Please consider our statement regarding the findings and our willingness to show the other checks we have spanning almost a decade for the completeness of the investigation. We would appreciate it if you could also forward this to your respective news desks,” it said.
Tongol and Joven issued the statement after their clients Co and Sai were named as “conspirators” in an investigation earlier conducted by the National Bureau of Investigation based on Metrobank’s complaint.
Last July, the NBI arrested Ma. Victoria Lopez, a vice president at the corporate services unit of Metrobank’s head office in Makati City, for funnelling disbursed loans into fictitious accounts created in the name of one of the bank’s biggest corporate clients.
Last August, Metrobank filed charges of qualified theft through the falsification of commercial documents as well as violation of the General Banking Law before the Makati City Prosecutor’s Office against Lopez.
Meanwhile, Co’s and Sai’s lawyers lauded the BSP’s findings against Metrobank officers.
“We laud the BSP’s findings against Metrobank and its officers regarding the 1.75 Billion-Peso bank fraud. The BSP’s audit affirms and confirms our theory that the fraud was committed within Metrobank’s corporate hierarchy itself, and that Metrobank failed to observe extraordinary diligence in the conduct of its affairs,” said the statement by the lawyers.
“Such gross failure made it possible for Metrobank’s former Vice President, Mrs. Ma. Victoria S. Lopez, to get away with fraud for several more years than what was initially reported in the press,” it said.
“Our clients, Mr. Hubert Co and Ms. Sue Anne Sai, who are not connected with Metrobank in any capacity, are innocent third parties also defrauded by Mrs. Lopez,” the statement read.
“As such, our clients filed a Complaint for Damages against Mrs. Lopez, currently being heard before Branch 215 of the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City,” the lawyers said.
“Despite being victims themselves, Metrobank still made our clients as scapegoats to assign blame away from itself,” the statement read.
“To our client’s minds, their transactions with Mrs. Lopez were legal and above board as simple personal loan contracts,” it said.
“As ordinary individuals, they do not have the means of knowing that the money paid to them by Mrs. Lopez came from questionable sources,” the lawyers said.
“In fact, our clients showed Metrobank’s counsel the checks issued to Mrs. Lopez for the numerous loan transactions dating back from the year 2000, or spanning more than a decade, in order for Metrobank to complete the whole picture for the audit; but Metrobank simply disregarded these for unknown reasons,” they said.
“To our mind, these checks are important for any audit or investigation to not only verify the gravity or extent of the fraud, but more importantly, to understand Mrs. Lopez’s modus operandi,” the statement said.
“Sadly, Metrobank was not so interested to dig deeper,” the lawyers said.
“Nevertheless, our clients will be making available the checks they have to the BSP or any other entity or investigating body as they have always been willing to cooperate with authorities,” the statement read.
Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas had earlier announced a string of sanctions slapped on Metropolitan Bank and Trust Co. (MBTC) over the massive internal fraud reported in July this year that cost the country’s second largest bank P1.75 billion.
In a statement, the BSP said the Monetary Board approved the imposition of sanctions on Metrobank that ranged from reprimand to suspension of directors and officers “who failed to perform adequate oversight and/or have been complacent/remiss of their duties and responsibilities.”
The BSP said the MB took into consideration the bank’s “strong financial condition and immediate corrective actions to contain further financial damage” in determining the appropriate sanctions.
“MBTC was required to allocate approximately P4.45 billion of its capital on a consolidated basis to cover for higher operational risk,” the Central Bank said.
“The requirement is subject to periodic review and would be lifted when the Bank is determined to have put in place adequate risk control measures to address the weaknesses noted,” it added.
Metrobank said in a separate statement issued at the Philippine Stock Exchange that it “acknowledges” the examination concluded by the BSP on the internal fraud case.
It also reiterated its assurance to the public that no customer was affected and that the case was an isolated incident.
"The bank appreciates the BSP’s affirmation of MBTC’s strong financial condition, safety and soundness. The board and senior management accept accountability and command responsibility for the incident and commits to implementing the directives," it said.
“MBTC assures the public that bank operations remain business as usual,” it added.