The Makati City regional trial court (RTC) issued arrest warrants on a Philippine Daily Inquirer reporter and the newspaper’s editors over the libel complaint of former Vice President Jejomar Binay regarding a banner story linking him to a remittance company being investigated in the laundering of $81-million funds of the Bangladesh Bank. Ordered arrested were Nancy Carvajal, Jose Ma. Nolasco, Artemio Engracia Jr. and Nilo Paurom. In an order, the Makati RTC branch said “after a personal determination of whether a crime has been committed and whether there exists probable cause for the issuance of a warrant against the accused and (their) subsequent trial, the court is convinced from the evidence presented at the Prosecutor’s Office, its Resolution and from the records of the case that indeed the crime charged has been committed.”The court recommended a bail of P10,000 for each of the accused.
The case stemmed from an Inquirer banner story on the Anti-Money Laundering (AMLC) report that a firm linked to Binay sent more than P100 million to Hong Kong using the same remittance company involved in the alleged laundering of $81 million from the Bank of Bangladesh. Binay’s law office, the law firm of Subido Pagente Certeza Mendoza and Binay (SPCMB), through lawyer Claro Certeza dismissed the AMLC report as a “pathetic attempt” to supposedly divert public attention to the alleged money laundering scheme being investigated then by the Senate blue ribbon committee. Certeza said the “screaming headline in the Philippine Daily Inquirer is but a pathetic attempt to divert and diminish public attention to the most embarrassing scandal of all, the inefficiency and ineptitude of the AMLC and the (Aquino) administration to prevent the $81 million money laundering involving the foreign reserved funds of the government of Bangladesh,” Certeza said in a statement to assail the Inquirer report. “By allowing itself to be used as a political tool to harass and persecute those opposing the current administration, the AMLC ignored its mandate to address the serious money laundering cases being brazenly committed by international crime syndicates in the Philippines,” he added. AMLC report cites Binay dummy firm The Inquirer report cited a 62-page AMLC report that supposedly showed that Philrem Service Corp. facilitated the dispatch of various amounts to Citibank in Hong Kong for Three Star Phil, a firm in the British Virgin Islands that was allegedly an investor in a Binay dummy company, in October 2014. Certeza said the AMLC report manifested the agency’s “inefficiency and ineptitude” by failing to keep the confidentiality of all reports and proceedings under the Anti-Money Laundering Act, noting that a gag order was issued by a Manila regional trial court pending resolution of a civil forfeiture case. “AMLC allowed the Philippine Daily Inquirer to print several articles involving its dubious report that is replete with lies, half-truths, misleading statements and allegations that have since been retracted by the AMLC,” the lawyer said. Certeza denied the report, saying that no transactions involved Binay. “However, notwithstanding said gag order and statutory rule on confidentiality, we can categorically state that none of the bank transactions mentioned in the libelous article of the Philippine Daily Inquirer involve the Vice President. The Vice President is but one of many other clients of the SPCMB law offices,” Certeza said. “Moreover, the alleged transactions of the SPCMB law office are but parts of legitimate business activities duly reported to several government agencies where the services of the SPCMB law offices were engaged,” he added. Misleading AMLC report The AMLC report said accounts of Binay and his alleged dummies disbursed amounts to Philrem’s account with BDO and that SPCMB made two telegraphic transfers to Three Star Capital Limited in Hong Kong. Citing “undisputed facts,” Certeza said the Inquirer’s “screaming headlines” about the AMLC report was part of a “smear campaign” and “malicious retaliation against Binay and his law firm. “While this may still be an objective of the malicious article and extraordinary coverage being given to it by other media outfits, there appears to be a more sinister motive at play…. a possible [cover-up] to hide a scandal so big that it affects those in the current administration and its not so secret candidate,” he said.