Metropolitan Bank and Trust Co. (Metrobank), the country’s second-largest bank, has been hit by internal fraud that a senior official allegedly perpetrated, causing it to lose at least P900 million.
The Inquirer learned that Metrobank, owned and controlled by George Ty, may have lost as much as P2.5 billion after a bank vice president allegedly funneled disbursed loans into fictitious accounts created in the name of a legitimate client, Universal Robina Corp.
The funds in the fake accounts, controlled by the rogue officer, were then siphoned off electronically to other accounts in other financial institutions and into the pockets of the suspect.
This prompted Governor Nestor Espenilla Jr. of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) to launch a probe to determine how a single official was able to circumvent the bank’s internal controls to commit “qualified theft.”
“We are going to investigate this matter, that you can be sure of,” said the BSP chief, who is three weeks into his six-year term as the country’s chief banking regulator.
The BSP immediately mobilized its examiners and auditors to pore over Metrobank’s records.
A Metrobank official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the probe was going on, said the preliminary amount of the stolen funds that could be confirmed as of Thursday stood at “around P900 million.”
The suspected rogue official has been identified as Maria Victoria Lopez, a vice president at the corporate services unit of Metrobank’s Makati City head office.
She was arrested on July 17 by the National Bureau of Investigation in a sting operation on the bank’s premises.
Lopez, 54 and one year away from the mandated retirement age, is detained at the NBI headquarters, according to sources.
False loan releases
Metrobank is expected to file charges against her next week.
Another banker, who was familiar with the details of the scam, told the Inquirer that the suspect engineered false loan disbursements from Metrobank to the fake Universal Robina account “in tranches of P30 million.”
“She or they did this over a long period for P30 million disbursements to reach a total of P2.5 billion,” the banker said. “How far back? That’s what they’re trying to figure out right now.”
Metrobank, a publicly listed company, had P1.9 trillion in assets as of the first quarter of 2017. It earned P6.21 billion from January to March.
Metrobank had 959 domestic branches and 202 foreign branches, offices and subsidiaries last year.