No let up on cases vs Legacy Group - BSP

Posted at 03/29/09 9:32 PM

Celso de los Angeles, founder and owner of the Legacy group, testifies at the House of Representatives inquiry.

Expect the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) to continue pounding Legacy Group owner Celso de los Angeles and his business partners with law suits one after another for the collapse of 13 Legacy-member rural banks.

The BSP has accused De los Angeles of masterminding a “swindling syndicate” that employed exorbitant investment schemes to amass depositors’ money and then later siphoned the funds to corporations he controlled. All the banks had an estimated total deposit liability of P24 billion when they collapsed.

On top of the three cases of syndicated estafa it already filed before the Department of Justice, BSP lawyer Alfonso Penaco said two more cases are being prepared for filing after the Holy Week.

These two yet-to-be-filed cases will uncover the schemes in the Pilipino Rural Bank in Cebu province and Rural Bank of Polangui in Albay.

The first three BSP cases uncovered the schemes in Rural Bank of Darbci Inc. in General Santos City, First Interstate Bank in Leyte, and Rural Bank of Bais Inc. in Negros Oriental.

In fact, Penaco said the BSP is preparing at least one case for each of the 13 rural banks.

“There were various misappropriations in each of the banks. Although the schemes were the same, it has to be a separate case each because the damaged parties—the banks—are different,” Penaco told abs-cbnNEWS.com/Newsbreak.

"We have developed strong cases," Penaco added.

Apart from the three BSP cases, the Philippine Deposit Insurance Corp. and groups of depositors and plan holders also slapped the Legacy owner with cases of syndicated estafa against him.

Three pre-need firms under the Legacy Group also collapsed. One group of plan holders were assisted by Senator Manuel Roxas II in filing its case.

Senate hearings 'corroborative'

On its third case against the Legacy Group, the BSP—for the first time—used a testimony from the Senate probe on the controversy.

Penaco said the BSP by itself can gather evidence against the Legacy Group but the Senate hearings are surely helpful in providing “additional evidence.”

“It’s supportive and corroborative of the cases we have filed,” added BSP lawyer Juan de Zuñiga.

In the case citing Legacy’s schemes in the Rural Bank of Bais Inc., the BSP used the testimony of bank president Paul Stephen Montenegro in a March 2 Senate hearing, where he narrated how Delos Angeles controlled the operations of the bank.

Even as president, Montenegro said he did not know what was happening in the bank. “And the reason why I wasn’t aware of any communications from BSP is that all the transmittals would just go to the Cebu branch where his lieutenant was there because when he bought the bank, he place a lieutenant of course, the vice president and treasurer Alexis Petralba," Montenegro told the senators.

The lieutenant that Montenegro was referring to was Alexis Petralba, who assumed as bank treasurer once Delos Angeles acquired the bank. It was also Petralba who oversaw the implementation of the Legacy Group’s exorbitant investment schemes.

The hands-on operations in the Rural Bank of Bais Inc. was unlike the case of the earlier schemes uncovered by the BSP, where the Manila office of Legacy Group would instruct the bank presidents to do Delos Angeles’s bidding.

Same schemes

The schemes are the same. The BSP also submitted to the justice department the joint affidavit of Rural Bank of Bais Inc. employees Ma. Lidonna Gabayan (cashier), Cecil Ibjos (bookkeeper), Joylyn Tandoy (assistant bookkeeper), Jackie Bragat (teller), and Wieshaun Ebacuado (new accounts clerk).

The employees echoed the earlier affidavits of other bank presidents and employees regarding the schemes that Delos Angeles himself taught them to lure depositors to the Legacy banks and how they were later—upon the instructions of Petralba—siphoned to other accounts.

As of September 30, 2008, the Rural Bank of Bais had a total deposit liability of P784 million. But when BSP examiners came to check, the bank’s total capital account was already negative. Its cash resources was down to a mere P134.6 million.

On December 8, 2008, the bank declared a bank holiday.