By Melissa Luz T. Lopez
Senior Reporter

$15M from cyber heist returned to Bangladesh

Posted on November 14, 2016

THE ANTI-MONEY LAUNDERING Council (AMLC) has officially returned some $15 million in cash to Bangladesh last week, nine months since the biggest cross-border heist saw the funds transferred to Manila.

“Turnover was made on Thursday, Nov. 10. Total amount turned over was US$4,630,000 and P488,280,000,” AMLC Executive Director Julia Bacay-Abad said in a text message.

Bangladesh Ambassador John Gomes confirmed the development in a separate text message.

The amount represents money turned over by casino junket operator Kam Sin Wong to the regulator shortly after the Feb. 5 bank heist was uncovered.

Noting that he was not involved in the case, Mr. Wong said the funds were abandoned money by Chinese players Gao Shuhua and Ding Zhize at the gaming rooms of his casino firm Eastern Hawaii Leisure Corp. Ltd.

The money was transferred to AMLC officials in four tranches between March to May, roughly the same time when the Senate held a public inquiry on the $81-million cyber heist which exposed gnawing gaps in local laws versus dirty money deals.

The funds were initially placed inside the vaults of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) for safekeeping. On April 18, the Department of Justice (DoJ) filed a civil forfeiture case before the Manila Regional Trial Court on behalf of the Bangladesh government.

The funds were deemed forfeited by the court on July 7. The court on Sept. 16 ruled that the money belonged to Dhaka.

Ms. Bacay-Abad earlier said that turnover of the funds could take at least three months.

Earlier, the AMLC said they are working on tracing the portion of the $81-million loot that were played in casinos, as the state watchdog strives to recoup the entire amount months after the wire transfers occurred.

Hackers reportedly crafted the transfer of $81 million from the Bangladesh Bank’s account at the New York Federal Reserve to four accounts under the Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. (RCBC) on Feb. 5. The money was then withdrawn and transferred to casinos, a portion of which was through cash deliveries by the remittance firm PhilRem Service Corp.

Both RCBC President and Chief Executive Officer Lorenzo V. Tan and treasurer Raul Victor B. Tan resigned from their posts weeks after the case, but not before the bank’s internal investigators cleared them of any misdeeds.

Money laundering charges have been filed versus branch manager Maia Santos-Deguito and a member of her staff, Angela S. Torres, both of whom have been fired in connection with their alleged involvement in the crime.

The BSP also slapped a P1-billion fine on the listed lender last August as administrative sanction for failing to comply with rules and regulations, with the bank having settled half of the sum that month.