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BSP eyes breach of internal controls in Metrobank case

/ 05:30 AM July 26, 2017

Metropolitan Bank and Trust Co. could be sanctioned by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) if management is found to have breached internal controls following the BSP’s probe into a massive internal fraud incident that involved anywhere from P900 million to P2.5 billion.

Chuchi Fonacier, BSP deputy governor for bank supervision and examination, said there might be penalties in this case, acknowledged as the biggest incident of its kind to hit the banking sector.

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“There is that possibility,” said Fonacier, adding that the BSP was currently conducting its own parallel probe. “It’s an ongoing investigation,” she said.

Details of the incident emerged after Maria Victoria Lopez, a vice president at the corporate services unit of Metrobank’s Makati City head office, was arrested on July 17 as part of a sting operation launched by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI).

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Fonacier said the BSP investigation was so far focused on Lopez. It was not immediately clear if other individuals were involved.

The Inquirer reported on Friday that the bank’s losses occurred after Lopez allegedly engineered the release of loans to a fake account in the name of Universal Robina Corp., a food and beverage conglomerate owned by the Gokongwei family.

Lopez then allegedly siphoned the money from the account, which had been active since 2012, sources had said. So far, some P900 million in losses had been confirmed via this scheme. Loan releases were made in increments of about P30 million each, the Inquirer was told.

“On the part of the BSP, so long as there are no abuses, the effect is they (the bank) are the ones absorbing the loss,” Fonacier said. “Unless we see it as a concern of the BSP when it comes to internal controls.”

Metrobank, the country’s second-largest lender, had P1.9 trillion in assets as of the first quarter of 2017. During this period, it posted a profit of P5.6 billion, up 6 percent, while revenues rose 3.4 percent to P19.88 billion.

BSP Governor Nestor Espenilla Jr. said earlier that Metrobank could also be subjected to a probe by the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC). Espenilla, barely a month into his new role as head of the central bank, is also chair of the AMLC.

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TAGS: Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), Chuchi Fonacier, internal controls, internal fraud incident, Metropolitan Bank and Trust Co.
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