Manila, Philippines (BBN) – Bangladesh’s investigators and central bank officials will come to the Philippines by next week to expedite the ongoing recovery process of the US$81 million stolen money.
The investigators and Bangladesh Bank (BB) offices will coordinate directly with the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), the central bank of Philippines, on the $81-million money laundering case, following the return of a portion of the stolen funds on Thursday.
Bangladesh Ambassador to the Philippines John Gomes said representatives of their central bank are expected to fly to Manila by Sunday to formally meet their counterparts in the BSP for talks regarding the recovery of the money stolen from Bangladesh Bank’s account in the New York Federal Reserve, the Business World, a local newspaper reported.
This came after junket operator Kam Sin Wong (or Kim Wong) transferred $4.63 million in cash to the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) and the Bangladesh government on Thursday afternoon. His lawyer brought in a suitcase full of bundles of $100 bills to the BSP complex in Manila, which was received by Mr. Gomes and AMLC executive director Julia Bacay-Abad.
This after Mr. Wong’s commitment before the Senate last Tuesday that he will return the leftover cash, which he said was delivered by remittance firm PhilRem Service Corp. to Solaire Resort and Casino for junket players to bet at the gaming tables.
“We are having an official from Bangladesh Bank. When he comes here, he is going to coordinate with Julia (Bacay-Abad) of AMLC and we will see how that money is transferred back,” Mr. Gomes told reporters on Thursday evening after the money was counted and lodged inside the BSP’s vaults.
The Bangladesh central bank official would likewise attend the fourth Senate hearing on April 5.
Ms. Bacay-Abad added that the money has been effectively turned over to Bangladesh, and is temporarily held at the central bank’s vaults for safekeeping “while the Bangladesh government is making necessary arrangements for the transfer of money to their country.”
Officials from Bangladesh’s Criminal Investigation Department (CID) would also visit the Philippines to coordinate with BSP and conduct their own probe in their bid to recover the $81 million loot that found its way to Philippine banks and casinos, Mr. Gomes added.
“They (CID) will also try to find out the documents, how these money actually came in here and who were involved because the whole world is looking upon Bangladesh also on what we are going to do to recover this money,” the Bangladesh ambassador added.
Mr. Gomes said their government would strongly pursue the recovery of some $34 million of the amount, which was pointed out by Sen. Ralph G. Recto during one of the hearings of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee.
Mr. Wong has said that he took a separate P450 million (about $10 million) from the fund transfers that flowed in on Feb. 5, which he said was organized by Chinese junket players Shuhua Gao and Zhize Ding, as Mr. Gao’s payment for a debt he incurred in 2014 from playing in Mr. Wong’s casino operations.
He said he would return the money if so ordered by the Senate body, while claiming innocence for the bank heist.
Ms. Bacay-Abad, however, said that she has not received any word from Mr. Wong regarding this amount as of Thursday night.
“We are also hopeful that the rest of the money should also be accounted for. We have seen that one of the senators has mentioned about $34 million, so we are hopeful that this would be a step in the right direction and we can recover this,” Mr. Gomes said.
“We are very optimistic about this 40 per cent of the total amount but I would like to add that we are quite pleased with the way the Senate has been able to at least get a portion of the money.”
Mr. Gomes said they will “definitely pursue” the $17 million believed to be left with PhilRem as testified by Mr. Wong at the Senate.
However, PhilRem president Salud Bautista has repeatedly denied holding any portion of the $81 million, claiming they have transferred all the funds to the casinos.