Biz Buzz: On the block | Inquirer Business

Biz Buzz: On the block

/ 12:45 AM April 22, 2016

About six months ago, a businessman and former investment banker was looking at a proposal about a certain remittance firm that was on the selling block.  After looking at the documents, however, the businessman decided not to endorse to his principal investor the acquisition of this company.

The rationale was that in an environment of tighter financial regulations and technological advances globally, it would be difficult for an independent or non-bank remittance firm to thrive.

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So, the proposal was promptly rejected. It didn’t even reach the stage of haggling for the price.

Six months later, the businessman could only heave a sigh of relief that he didn’t recommend the takeover of this remittance firm to the group.

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Otherwise, it would have been him in hot water before the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee explaining the $81-million dirty money flow coming from the cyber heist on the Bangladeshi central bank. It would have been him dealing with the tax evasion charges filed by the Bureau of Internal Revenue.

Months before the “jackpot” deal turned into ashes, controversial Philrem Service Corp.—led by couple Michael and Salud Bautista (that’s “Concon” and “Sheba,” respectively, for those who know them)—was on sale, based on the reckoning of the businessman.

Based on its latest financial statement for 2014, Philrem had P15.13 million in total assets and almost P4.9 million in total equity.  It had total revenue of P11.8 million, out of which P373,951 was declared as net profit. It had set aside P64,898 in tax provisions for that year. (From the RCBC-related transaction, Philrem claimed to have earned P10 million in fees and volunteered to give this back to Bangladesh).

Casino junket operator Kim Wong suspects that $17 million of the “unaccounted” money from Bangladesh that slipped through the banking system is still with Philrem, which the latter has strongly denied.

Its officials have been criticized for a lot of inconsistencies in their stories and sworn testimonies.  With its footprint all over the place, being the central party involved from the transfer of all the money to the recipients and their conversion into pesos, Philrem still has a lot of explaining to do. Doris Dumlao-Abadilla

Laundering? Blame the banks, says Razon 

Casinos have been getting a lot of bad press recently due to the role they allegedly played in the $81-million money laundering scandal that has rocked the local banking industry, or more specifically, Rizal Commercial Banking Corp.

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A lot of the criticism focused on the casino industry’s exclusion from coverage under the Anti-Money Laundering Law, presumably because it would place an unnecessary burden on a still-young industry.

As it turns out Enrique Razon Jr., who owns Solaire Resort & Casino in Entertainment City, is “absolutely” OK with casinos being covered by such regulations.

He also has this message for would-be money-launderers: avoid casinos.

“It’s not recommended that if you’re laundering money, you do it in a casino,” Razon said, noting that the casino “will make you play the entire amount at least once.”

“In fact, it’s the worst place (for laundering),” he said.

An ongoing senate investigation has revealed that one way for laundering to occur was for a player to bet on both sides. There is a cost to this, but it is said to be minimal. Casino executives, meanwhile, argued that while they could spot this practice “a mile away,” it was not actually illegal.

Rather than focusing just on casinos, Razon pointed the issue right where it began.

“The money came from the banks. So if there is a problem, it is with the banks. That is what the government has to solve,” Razon said. Miguel R. Camus

RCBC casualty

With Thursday’s announcement of the departure of Raul Tan as the treasurer of Rizal Commercial Banking Corp., the task of ensuring the smooth flow of funds into, out of and within the bank has now fallen on Carlos Cesar “Lito” Mercado.

Initially, word on the street was that the task of running RCBC’s treasury department in the interim would be given to senior vice president Jomi Deveras, known to be a close associate of the bank’s president-on-leave Lorenzo Tan.

But for one reason or another, this didn’t pan out, so the job of running the bank’s coffers is now with Mercado, who has a rank of senior vice president and was previously the bank’s head of trading.

Before joining RCBC, Mercado was part of the Lucio Tan Group, specifically the conglomerate’s fund management unit called Basic Capital Investments Corp. Before this, he was the treasurer of the now defunct local unit of Singapore’s United Overseas Bank, and before that, with Equitable-PCI Bank (before it was acquired by BDO Universal Bank).

As for Tan, his resignation was a surprising turn to his friends in the tightly-knit banking community, especially when word started going around last Wednesday night that RCBC offered him a compelling “retirement deal.”

It is unclear whether the man they called “RBT” (for Raul B. Tan) will be the last casualty of the management shakeup within RCBC or if—as the word on the street suggests—there will at least be one more big name to follow. So… abangan. Daxim L. Lucas

E-mail us at [email protected] Get business alerts and a preview of Biz Buzz the evening before it comes out. Text ON INQ BUSINESS to 4467 (P2.50/alert).

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TAGS: bangladesh, Business, economy, money laundering, News, RCBC, Rizal Commercial Banking Corp.
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