Philrem, casinos should also return stolen funds
Other casino junket operators and remittance firm Philrem Services Corp. should also surrender any portion of the $81 million stolen from Bangladesh that is still with them after junket operator Kim Wong returned $4.6 million, senators said Friday.
“We should insist that the other junket operators, casinos and other institutions return the money that coursed through them, in good faith, and because it is the right thing to do,” said Sen. Bam Aquino.
Wong was one of the major recipients of the money stolen by hackers from the account of the Bangladesh central bank with the Federal Reserve of New York which entered the Philippine financial system through the Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. The funds were later remitted to casino junket operators.
Wong turned over the $4.6 million to the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) after promising to do so in a Senate hearing, where he also denied complicity in the cyber heist.
He tagged two other men as the ones who told him the money would be coming in to the country.
“Kim Wong returning $4.6 million is only the first step,” said Aquino.
Citing testimony in the previous hearing, Aquino said Wong had received much more than $4.6 million.
He also said he was hoping that other parties that got the funds would follow Wong’s example and turnover the money to authorities soon.
But he made it clear that returning the money would not automatically clear their names.
“Of course, these actions will not absolve any party as the investigation by the authorities is ongoing and the true picture of what happened is still unclear to the public,” he said.
Sen. Ralph Recto also said that Philrem which transferred the money to the casino operators should be the next to return to the AMLC whatever remains of the $81 million that is under its control.
“They should give back all they could, so that these could be returned to Bangladesh,” he said.
Sen. Teofisto Guingona III, chair of the blue ribbon committee, said more could be done to ensure that more than $4.6 million would be returned.
“It’s clear we could recover more and do more to return the money to Bangladesh, and bring back the international financial community’s trust in the Philippines,” he said.
Wong will still have to face the charges filed against him as well as an investigation by the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR).
“We are looking at everyone involved in the heist,” BIR Commissioner Kim Henares said.
The BIR is conducting a parallel but independent investigation on the tax compliance of the personalities allegedly involved in money laundering.
AMLC officials said Wong giving back the stolen money would not let him off the hook even as his lawyer maintained his client’s innocence.
AMLC Executive Director Julia Bacay-Abad said they would not withdraw the case they earlier filed against Wong and another Chinese businessman, Xu Weikang.
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