Corona remitted US$350,000 abroad amid Xmas rush
Exclusive by Raïssa Robles
Defenders of Chief Justice Renato Corona say the damning Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) report on his peso and dollar bank transactions is misleading and deceptive, if not outright fake.
I took a look at the AMLC document . My copy is the same one that was released by House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, to whom Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales submitted her entire report, which included the AMLC report.
Reading the AMLC report, which merely lists page after page of detailed bank transactions involving Corona, I found a couple that were interesting:
One transaction: a withdrawal of US$135,359.01 from his Philippine Savings Bank Dollar Account No. 0141024292 was made on December 12, 2011 – the very day of CJ Corona’s impeachment.
Another transaction: a US$350,000 remittance (or money sent from the Philippines to overseas) which CJ Corona made on December 22, 2011 or just three days before Christmas last year.
If these transactions really did happen, then our good Chief Justice has some explaining to do.
For starters, where did he get all that money? According to his audit of assets based on his SALN (Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth) and his taxable income based on testimonies made at the impeachment court and documents submitted by the internal revenue, he only has this much money:
P3.5 million in cash and investments which he reported in his 2010 SALN
And a possible gross take home pay of P2.25 million for 2011 (this includes his gross salary of P1,147,301.77 (as testified to by Araceli Bayuga, Supreme Court Chief Judicial Staff Officer, Cash Collection and Distribution Division) plus his generous allowances and other benefits.)
To sum up –
In 2011, CJ Corona had around P5.75 million in cash, investments, salary, allowances and benefits earnings that he could easily turn into dollars.
But at the end of 2011, he undertook at least two separate dollar transactions:
Going by these amounts alone, it means CJ Corona’s assets grew by at least US$485,359.01 by end-2011. This is equivalent to a P20.38 million rise in assets for 2011, based on the rate of P42 pesos per dollar.
Corona’s defenders — who include my ex-friend, Gloria Arroyo die-hard loyalist Rigoberto Tiglao — argue that whatever dollars Corona had came from the cash advance that his daughter’s Basa Guidote company very kindly (although perplexingly) extended to him. They hint that all this lovely cash was converted to US dollars, which would be a way of explaining his large dollar holdings.
Let’s look at how the money moved. Last year, Philippine Savings Bank officials testified that on the day CJ Corona was impeached, three separate peso deposits amounting to P37,657,172.69 were transferred to PSB Peso Account No. 089-101005094.
Keep in mind that CJ Corona himself told Arnold Clavio on GMA-TV that these were the funds of Basa Guidote Enterprises, Inc. from the sale of its lone property to the city of Manila.
The AMLC report notes these same transactions. The screen capture from page 15 of the AMLC report shows that the following amounts were first credited (or deposited) to Corona’s peso account NO.101005094:
And then the entire amount was immediately debited (withdrawn) from the same account but at different amounts:
See a portion of the AMLC report below:
Could these have been converted to US dollars as my good ex-friend Tiglao implied in his column last week?
Let me answer by dissecting CJ Corona’s dollar transactions ONLY IN PSB, to ensure that there is no double counting.
CJ Corona’s US$135,359.01 transaction
On the day he was impeached, CJ Corona not only withdrew the Basa-Guidote funds. He also withdrew from his PSB Dollar Account No 0141024292 the amount of US$135,359.01.
The next day December 13, 2012, the same amount of US$135,359.01 is seen but this time involving another account – 50023210.
And the stated name of the banking institution involved in this transaction is Metropolitan Bank & TCO-New York.
If you go to the PSB website and click on “Other Products and Services”, then click again on “Remittance Services”, you will find Metrobank New York but a somewhat different account number used in Corona’s transaction – 50023201. See below:
I asked a senior banking executive to explain this use of Metrobank New York to me. He said this may mean this transaction somehow involves a correspondent bank in New York of Metrobank, the mother firm of PSB. PSB is Metrobank’s retail banking arm.
I hope CJ Corona explains this particular transaction. Why does it involve a correspondent bank based in New York?
One thing clear is that the amount of US$135,359.01 either way is not Basa-Guidote money. The amount was first mentioned as being withdrawn directly from dollar account No 0141024292 on the same day that the Basa-Guidote money was withdrawn. In the second mention of US$135,359.01, it is clear that this involves a correspondent bank in New York.
As I said, I won’t discuss yet the dollar amounts that CJ Corona transacted with other banks in order to avoid the accusation of double counting. I will confine myself to his dollar transactions at PSB.
Corona’s dollar transactions at PSB following his impeachment
Before I continue, please recall that among the charges filed against CJ Corona was that, as part of his failure to disclose all his assets in his SALN:
Respondent is likewise suspected and accused of having accumulated ill-gotten wealth, acquiring assets of high values and keeping bank accounts with huge deposits.
Presumably, CJ Corona had read the charge sheet by December 15, 2011 when he or his authorized representative went again to PSB and did the following transactions with his dollars, basically involving two dollar bank accounts.
First, CJ Corona undertook a CM (Credit Memo) transaction that amounted to US$769,681.71 in Dollar Bank Account No. 0131002826 on December 15. Simply put, a CM increases money in a deposit account.
On the very same day, though, the very same amount shows up as a WITHDRAWAL transaction involving yet another Corona Dollar Bank Account No. 0191000373. It is very likely that this is the same sum that was reflected as a CM transaction because the amount is very precise, down to US cents.
From the same Dollar Bank Account No. 0131002826 where the US$769,681.71 was obtained, the following were also deducted on the same day December 15 through a transaction called a DM (Debit Memo):
And a third separate transaction in the form of a WITHDRAWAL of US$343,192.62 was likewise made from the same Dollar Bank Account No. 0131002826 on the same day December 15.
Could these be the same amounts being counted four times? Not likely because all four amounts left only one Corona dollar bank account – 0131002826 – in one single day:
See portion of AMLC report below:
What happened to this US$1,534,903.66?
We don’t know, except for two things:
First, the US$769,681.71 was withdrawn from PSB.
Second, the amount of US$350,000.00 seems to have been remitted out of the Philippines because it turned up in the AMLC report as a RORIC transaction three days before Christmas.
According to the “Transaction Code Legend” accompanying the 17-page AMLC report, a RORIC is an “Outward Remittance /TT (International)-Credit to Beneficiary’s Account.”
Who could have been the “beneficiary” of such a sum remitted out of the country three days before Christmas?
That could be found out, my banking executive source suggested, by asking US authorities, and invoking the US Patriot Act. My source explained that any transactions that pass through US-based banks would also have been recorded separately as “covered transactions” under the US Patriot Act. He explained that US$10,000 is the minimum amount of transaction that is required to be reported under US laws.
True enough Section 311 of the US Patriot Act details how banks are required to report transactions. Section 315 includes FOREIGN CORRUPTION OFFENSES” as part of the “MONEY LAUNDERING CRIMES” where disclosure of bank transactions can be invoked.
And please note that all these dollar transactions of Corona totaling US$1,534,903.66 are apart from the separate withdrawals of P37,657,172.69 that Corona claimed was Basa-Guidote money, and that he withdrew from his peso bank accounts also at PSB on December 12.
Could he have converted the Basa-Guidote money into dollars?
My good ex-friend Rigoberto “Bobi” Tiglao has this theory that he did. He wrote last week:
So how much did Corona have in his bank accounts, and did he report this in his SALN? While only a guess, it would be the biggest and last of Corona’s banking transactions reported: $687,433.
That dollar amount is worth P29.4 million now. But in 2001 when the exchange rate was P51 to the dollar, that was equivalent to P35 million. Doesn’t that figure remind you of the P34.7 million payment by the Manila government for the Basa-Guidote property, which the Chief Justice’s better-half, Cristina Corona, received and claimed she was holding in trust, and therefore was not their asset?
Bobi is implying that the US$687,433.57 is all Basa-Guidote money. Let’s examine this further, using the evidence shown by the AMLC report.
The Basa-Guidote money was first withdrawn in pesos from PSB by Corona on December 12. Corona himself said so in his TV interview with Arnold Clavio:
Clavio: Pero yun sinasabing 36 Million na winidraw niyo, ang initial reaksyon ng public, “Huh? San niya na kuha yun pera na yun”? Yun na naman…
Corona: Yun nga yun pera ng korporasyon.
Clavio: Yun pinagbentahan ba ng lupa yun?
Corona: Pinagbentahan ng lupa.
Clavio: So yun ang magiging depensa niyo na iyon ay pera na galling sa korporasyon ng inyo pong may bahay.
Corona: Di lang yun ang depensa ko, yun ang katotohanan.
The US$687,433 that Bobi pointed to first appeared as a CDM (CREDIT MEMO) or a deposit transaction at BPI San Francisco del Monte on December 19, 2012.
On the very same day, however, the amount also appeared as a RED transaction at BPI Investment Management Inc. According to the “Transaction Legend Code” provided along with the AMLC report, RED is a WITHDRAWAL.
BPI Investment Management Inc is the BPI arm that specifically manages mutual funds and other Unit Investment Trust Funds (UITFs) or special placements that are not time deposits.For a withdrawal to be made from there, it means there was a previous placement made there.
My guess is that the US$687,433.57 was actually some kind of a placement in BPI and then it was withdrawn by Corona on December 19, 2011. I am concluding this for the following reasons and based on what I learned covering retail banking for Business Star.
The Basa-Guidote money was only physically withdrawn in pesos on December 12. It first had to be converted to dollars. To do that, CJ Corona had to buy dollars somewhere. In the Philippines, when you deposit dollars in cash or a dollar check made out by one bank and deposited in another bank, there is a holding period – during which you cannot withdraw it – for at least 25 banking days.
However, the US$687,433.57 were withdrawn by CJ Corona from BPI on December 19 or just a week after the Basa-Guidote pesos were withdrawn from PSB.
In addition, if CJ Corona had obtained a dollar draft using Basa-Guidote money, the conversion and the purchase of a dollar Managers Check would have shown up as a separate transaction in the AMLC report.
The fact that the US$687,433.57 was allowed by BPI to be withdrawn from its system would tend to show that it had been sitting in there for some time. It was not something that came in after December 12 and was withdrawn by December 19 – a span of one week. That is, unless, BPI gave CJ Corona a special accommodation and unless CJ Corona had much more than US$687,433.57 already invested in BPI way before the Basa-Guidote funds supposedly came in.
My goodness, Bobi, I think you just pointed out another avenue of investigation. Thank you.