Manila, Philippines (BBN)– The decision to revive the probe into the $81-million Bangladesh Bank (BB) reserve heist would be up to the next Senate leadership, after the current leadership failed to resolve the issue citing time constraints.
Senate President Franklin Drilon said in a radio interview that the committee report by Blue Ribbon Chairman Senator Teofisto “TG” Guingona III on the money laundering scheme was not tackled in the plenary session before Congress adjourned last Monday, May 30, reports Rappler.com
It is really sad, but we can’t do anything because we were caught up by the closing of the Senate. Now the question is, what will happen during the next Congress?
He added that the next Senate blue ribbon committee will have the option to start anew with the investigation, adopt the committee report, or change it.
Bangladesh Ambassador to the Philippines John Gomes said he has officially asked incoming Senate President Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III for the revival of the investigation.
“I’ve talked to Senators [Alan Peter] Cayetano and Koko to revive Blue Ribbon hearing. They said they will do everything to recover our money,” Gomes told Rappler in a mobile phone reply.
During the last hearing on the heist, Gomes expressed concern that end of Senate probe would hinder the recovery of the stolen funds.
Guingona and Senator Sergio Osmeña III actively pursued the probe for about two months. The two senators, however, lost their reelection bid and would not be part of the 17th Congress.
Drilon said the committee report may end up in the Senate archives, after it was accepted by the Senate Bills and Index section.
What happens now?
Although casino junket operator Kam Sin “Kim” Wong had turned over $15 million to AMLC, this does not guarantee a fast turnover as it has to undergo a civil forfeiture case.
“We don’t want to be kept in the black. So I would like to know what happens now since the Senate is concluding its hearing? If we started positively, then we don’t want to end negatively,” an upset Gomes told the Senate blue ribbon committee last May 19.
Of the $81 million, Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) Executive Director Julia Bacay-Abad had said about $15 million was surrendered, $21 million is supposedly with casinos, another $28 million of Solaire Resort and Casino is still subject to the Supreme Court’s decision on the petition for freeze order, and $17 million is unaccounted for.
AMLC, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, and Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation (RCBC) had conducted their own investigations. RCBC had fired some involved bank employees, including Maia Santos-Deguito, the manager of the branch where the stolen money were deposited.
Senator Paolo Benigno “Bam” Aquino IV assured Gomes that the next Senate will continue what the 16th Congress has started.
“We won’t stop until the money stolen from the Bangladeshi people is returned – up to the last centavo,” Aquino told the ambassador during the last hearing.
The 17th Congress will open on July 25.